Having your children removed from your home is a heart-wrenching experience for any parent. It’s tough to believe that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Connecticut court have decided that your children would be better off with someone else, whether it be with a relative or in the foster care system.
Many of our law firm’s DCF dependency clients understandably want to know, “what do I have to do to get my kids back?” What makes the situation even more intolerable is that a single petition filed by DCF usually creates this injustice. Understandably, this feels like serving a jail sentence without a conviction.
What Happens Before Foster Care?
DCF cases can move quickly, which is why you should be prepared and have an experienced DCF attorney who can advocate for your interests. If your children have been removed from your home based on an emergency order, your attorney can represent you at the hearing requesting temporary custody.
There will be an evidentiary hearing where DCF must present evidence substantiating its removal of the child from your home due to abuse or neglect. You also have the opportunity to refute any evidence at that hearing.
If you don’t get your children back at this stage, they will be placed in the custody and care of DCF, which will likely place the children in foster care if you fail to win any appeals. During this time, you will remain the child’s legal guardian and maintain parental rights.
Foster Care is Not Forever
If DCF receives an order for temporary custody due to a child safety issue, your children were likely placed in another’s temporary custody. This might be with a family member or in foster care. When this happens, it can be incredibly stressful for all involved.
But foster care isn’t forever. Children do return to their families with great regularity. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that three in five children in foster care return home to their parents or other family members.
But that doesn’t mean that DCF will just hand your child back to you when you ask or make a demand. You’ll need to participate in the reunification process. If you don’t ask for reunification or fail to adhere to DCF’s requirements, the agency could seek termination of your parental rights, which is something that isn’t reversible.
What is the Reunification Process?
One of DCF’s goals is to “reunify families,” and this is accomplished through intensive assessment and case management. In short, DCF is going to tell you what they see as the problem in your home and give you an outline of the steps to fix it.
When DCF initiates an investigation, they will often ask a parent to sign a Safety Plan, also called a Service Agreement. While you should never sign anything without first speaking with an attorney, this type of contract will tell you a lot about what needs to happen for reunification.
Evaluate What Went Wrong
DCF and the courts have an obligation to act in the best interests of the child. If you want to get your children back, it’s vital that you first understand what went wrong. For example, if your children were removed from the home because it is considered an unsafe environment, what issues lead up to that and how can you avoid similar problems in the future?
Understand the Contingencies
What conditions have been placed on you as part of a parenting plan or court order? If DCF has required that you attend counseling sessions or go to substance abuse treatment, make sure you do so. Ignoring these contingencies will ensure you don’t get your children back anytime soon.
Be Patient and Compliant
While you’re waiting for your DCF and child custody case to be re-evaluated, make sure you demonstrate that you are a caring and fit parent. Exercise your right to full parenting time and visitation with your children.
Make sure that you avoid conflicts and anything that might aggravate the situation. And be as prepared as possible for the follow-up interview with DCF as part of the reunification process.
Call an Experienced Connecticut DCF Family Advocate Attorney
Few things are worse than having a child removed from the home by DCF due to allegations of abuse or neglect. If this is your situation, the first thing you should do is contact an attorney. At The Christie Law Firm, our Connecticut DCF attorney has extensive experience advocating for the rights of families and their children in child removal cases.
Our attorney understands your sense of urgency will provide you with the aggressive legal support you need during this difficult time. To learn more about the process of getting your kids back after DCF removal, call us today at 860-461-7494 or reach out to us online to schedule an appointment.