Investigations of parents and caretakers by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) for allegations of child abuse or neglect are serious matters that can have significant consequences for families. Too many parents react to a notice of a DCF investigation by downplaying the seriousness of the situation in the hopes that the investigator will quickly close their case as soon as they get “the real story.”
This often leads to unfortunate complications, particularly when DCF agents are permitted access to information they may not be entitled. While you want to cooperate to an extent, you have certain rights when DCF knocks on your door. It’s important to exercise those rights, especially when a DCF investigator asks to interview your child without a parent present.
Understand How DCF Investigations Work
One important thing to know about DCF investigations is that things can get moving rather quickly. If the agency receives a report of imminent harm to a child, it will respond within two hours. For a report of possible abuse or neglect, the agency responds within 72 hours.
If the agency believes that abuse or neglect may be a serious issue, they will come directly to your home without notice. This is the beginning of a possible investigation that could last up to 45 days. At the conclusion of this period, the agency will either substantiate or unsubstantiate the allegations. If the results are substantiated, the case will move to juvenile court, and you will have the opportunity to appeal. DCF can also file a petition to remove your child from the home until the case is resolved.
Can DCF Interview My Child?
When DCF opens its investigation, one of the things the agency is likely to request is an interview with your child. A common question from parents is, “can DCF interview my child?” That depends.
According to C.G.S. 17a-101h, DCF can only interview a child with a parent’s consent. However, there is an exception. Parental consent is not required if DCF has reason to believe that the parent or guardian is the perpetrator of the alleged abuse.
It’s important to note that the exception only applies to cases of alleged abuse, not neglect. But DCF investigators might try to tell you that their “policy” is to conduct non-consensual interviews in all suspected cases of abuse AND neglect. This isn’t what the law permits them to do.
If you have been accused of neglect, DCF requires your consent to interview your child. Even if you’ve been accused of abuse, you can tell DCF that they may not interview your child without an attorney present to protect their rights. One thing you may wish to do is send a letter to your child’s school or daycare, letting them know that no one is to interview your child without your knowledge and an attorney present.
What Happens When DCF Interviews My Child?
CPS will likely ask to conduct an interview unless your child is too young to communicate or is unable to express themselves. Interviews can take place in your home, at your child’s school or daycare, or at a DCF office. The main subject areas that are focused on during a child interview include:
- What happened during the alleged incident(s) of abuse or neglect?
- Does the child feel safe in the home?
- Is the child fearful that future incidents of abuse or neglect will occur?
- Are there any physical signs of abuse or neglect? If so, this may prompt a medical referral.
Aside from asking your child to be truthful during the interview, it’s not appropriate to “coach” your child prior to a DCF interview. Never ask your child to lie to DCF investigators. These agents are trained to look for tell-tale signs of coaching, and this won’t work in your favor.
Contact an Experienced Connecticut DCF Investigations Attorney Today
If you’ve been accused of child abuse or neglect in Connecticut, this is something you want to take seriously. You may be tempted to try to explain your side of the story to the investigator or allow your child to speak with them, but this may not be the best approach. When DCF contacts you, it’s important that you remain calm and seek legal counsel immediately.
At The Christie Law Firm, we have extensive experience representing the rights of parents and their children in DCF cases. Our DCF investigations attorney will provide compassionate and skilled representation throughout your DCF matter. To learn more about your options, please call (860) 461-7494 or reach out to us online to schedule an initial consultation.