When the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) receives a report of child abuse or neglect, they must take action. The agency has two options – open a full investigation into the matter or use its Family Assessment Response (FAR) System to help the family access various resources. Here’s what you need to know about the Family Assessment Response in DCF cases and why you still need to use caution even if DCF chooses FAR.
What is a Connecticut Department of Children and Families “Family Assessment Response”?
The Family Assessment Response (FAR) system is considered the low-risk one when it comes to DCF responses. This is a 45-day risk assessment by a DCF social worker or investigator that is meant to help a family gain access to helpful resources, such as mental health services. While it is similar to a full investigation, it doesn’t end with a finding of substantiation of abuse or neglect.
The most important thing to understand about the FAR process is that it can be converted to a full investigation at any point. If the investigator feels there is a need, they have the discretion to escalate your case, which raises the stakes for you and your children. While FAR is always the preferable option, there are never any guarantees when you are dealing with DCF.
Types of Cases That Don’t Qualify for FAR Status
According to the CT DCF guidelines, several types of cases or situations are not eligible to be treated classified as a Family Assessment Response. In other words, they would instead move to a full investigation. These include:
- Any new CPS report where there is an active investigation or an ongoing services case, excluding instances of Voluntary Services (this can include reports in other states);
- Prior child fatality due to neglect or abuse;
- Foster care (not including allegations involving the adoptive or biological children of a foster parent), congregate care, or persons entrusted (these include daycare providers);
- Previous adjudication of neglect or abuse in juvenile Superior Court or a comparable out-of-state court, including any prior termination of parental rights within the past five years; or
- Sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, or another person given access to the child by a parent or guardian. However, if there is no sexual abuse but rather child sexualized behaviors, this case may be treated as neglect and classified on a case-by-case basis.
How DCF Handles the Family Assessment Response Process
If your Connecticut DCF case gets classified as a Family Assessment Response, the agency will still investigate any allegations of abuse or neglect. But instead of making any findings, an assigned social worker will meet with your family and do one of three things:
- Close your case after determining that no further assistance is required;
- Provide any necessary assistance to your family; or
- Refer your family to an outside agency for assistance or service.
Remember, the investigator assigned to your case can always change their mind and convert the case to a full investigation at any point. This could result in the filing of a Neglect Petition and the eventual removal of your child from the home.
Protecting Your Rights When Dealing With DCF
Whether your case is treated as a Family Assessment Response or something more, you should never let your guard down with DCF. While you want to cooperate with the agency, you need to protect the rights of you and your children.
You don’t have to meet a DCF investigator or social worker alone if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. You also don’t have to agree to have your child interviewed alone by an investigator. You have the right to have an attorney present for these interviews, and we recommend that you seek qualified counsel as soon as possible in this process.
Contact an Experienced Hartford DCF Attorney
It’s important to understand that, even if DCF chooses to treat classify your case as Family Assessment Response, they can escalate it to a full investigation at any point. The agency wields tremendous power. But you have rights as well.
At The Christie Law Firm, we specialize in protecting the rights of our clients who are forced to deal with DCF allegations. If you are contacted by DCF or law enforcement, we recommend you simply remain calm and contact our office. Working with a skilled and experienced attorney is the best way to protect your rights and work toward the most positive outcome possible. Please call (860) 461-7494 or reach out to us online to find out how we can help.