Over the past several years, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families has shifted its policy regarding home visits. In the past, just about every referral resulted in an unscheduled knock on the door.
Now, unannounced visits are largely reserved for cases in which DCF believes that a child may require immediate protection. For example, a report alleging that a child is being physically abused will result in an agent getting sent to the home quickly.
Other less serious cases, such as emotional or educational neglect, might wait for a scheduled visit. In those cases, DCF will call the family or send a letter to arrange for a meeting.
Whether the visit is unscheduled or not, it’s not something you want to take lightly. DCF investigations are serious and can escalate quickly. What starts out as a minor or basic inquiry can be converted to a full-scale investigation based on an agent’s suspicions, founded or not.
Here’s what you can expect from a DCF home visit and what you should do if a DCF investigator asks to enter your home.
What is DCF Looking for on a Home Visit?
Home visits are conducted by DCF on families that are either involved with DCF through an investigation or voluntary services. Some families might be subject to home visits if a parent has already signed a Safety Plan or is in the process of reunification with their child.
But what can you expect during one of these visits? Here are five things a DCF worker is usually looking for during a home visit.
1. The Environment
The first thing an investigator will look for inside your home is evidence that you have created a clean and liveable space for your children. It’s ok if your child’s room is a little messy. Do they have a bed, a place to eat meals, and somewhere to do schoolwork?
2. Basic Needs
DCF investigators want to ensure that your child’s basic needs are being met. This means ensuring you have enough food in your pantry and refrigerator, clean clothing for your kids, shelter, and access to transportation.
3. Any Hazards
Even if you have a clean and liveable space, there might be some hazards present that pose a danger to your children. The investigator will look for things that might pose a safety concern, such as exposed wires, pest control products, aggressive pets, and unsecured prescription drugs.
4. Illegal Activity
There should be no illegal substances in your home. Alcohol and firearms should be locked away and out of your children’s reach.
5. Your Parent-Child Bond
For the most part, DCF investigators want to see that your children are safe and you have a positive relationship with them. You may be asked about what a typical day for your family looks like and how you spend quality time with your children.
What to do If DCF Visits Your Home
You can’t prevent DCF from knocking on your door or requesting a meeting. But, if you do open your door and find an investigator standing there, here are some tips to help protect your rights.
1. Request a copy of the “Parents Right to Know” Brochure.
You can quickly establish with the DCF investigator that you understand you have many rights during this process. Requesting this information upfront can set the tone for a more fair interaction.
2. Don’t Provide Any Statements to DCF.
When you believe you are completely innocent of any allegations, it’s easy enough to think you can clear everything up if you just explain what happened. This never turns out the way parents hope. You don’t have to make any statements to DCF without an attorney present. We recommend you resist the urge to speak to provide a statement.
3. Don’t Sign Anything.
Avoid signing anything put in front of you by a DCF employee. This includes Authorizationis, Service Agreements, Releases of Information, and Safety Plans.
4. Don’t Allow DCF to Interview Your Child.
The DCF investigator will tell you they need to speak with your child. They only have the right to do this under very limited circumstances.
5. Speak with a Qualified Attorney.
If the investigator shows up at your door unannounced, ask for their business card and let them know you will get back to them after you speak with a lawyer. Then contact a knowledgeable DCF attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation and figure out your options.
Contact an Experienced Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney
Even when you are sure you’ve done nothing wrong, DCF investigations are something you need to take seriously. If the agency files a petition, you have only days to submit an answer and prepare for a mandatory hearing.
At the Christie Law Firm, our experienced Connecticut DCF attorney is dedicated to keeping families together and safeguarding the rights of parents and their children. Please call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.