Connecticut child abuse laws aim to protect children from serious harm. They are often successful. But, unfortunately, many allegations of abuse and neglect are exaggerated or unfounded. Given the sensitive nature of these cases, child abuse and neglect are treated as serious crimes, and a conviction can lead to severe penalties.
Allegations of child abuse can create havoc for parents. A conviction means long-lasting consequences, including jail time, fines, and the potential loss of parental rights. If you are facing an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) or have charges of child abuse or neglect against you, you need to speak with an experienced Connecticut child abuse defense attorney immediately.
Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect in Connecticut
In Connecticut, the term “abuse” means that a child has been physically injured through other than accidental means or is in a condition resulting from maltreatment that includes cruel punishment, emotional maltreatment, sexual abuse, or deprivation of necessities.
The state differentiates between physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
- Physical Abuse involves injuries inconsistent with the history provided about them. Evidence includes injuries, malnutrition, and death.
- Sexual Abuse is any incident involving a child’s non-accidental exposure to sexual behavior. Evidence includes incest, sexual exploitation, grooming, and disease.
- Emotional Abuse involves any statements, threats, or acts which adversely impact a child and/or interferes with their positive emotional development. Evidence includes degrading, intimidating, or rejecting a child, and indicators include anxiety, depression, academic regression, and suicidal ideation.
In Connecticut, a child can be found “neglected” who, for reasons other than being impoverished:
- Has been abandoned
- Has been abused
- Has been denied property physical, emotional, educational, or moral care and attention
- Is allowed to live under injurious circumstances or conditions
The state differentiates between physical, emotional, medical, and educational neglect.
- Physical Neglect involves abuse, abandonment, or being deprived of the basics for survival. Evidence of physical neglect includes malnutrition, inadequate clothing, inadequate shelter, or inadequate supervision.
- Emotional Neglect involves refusing to give a child the appropriate support, care, and attention. Evidence includes low self-esteem, emotional instability, and sleep issues.
- Medical Neglect involves the refusal of or unreasonable delay or medical, dental, or mental health services. Evidence includes missed appointments or withholding necessary care from a sick child.
- Educational Neglect involves the action or inaction related to the education of a child between the ages of 5 and 18. Evidence includes failing to register a child for school or ensure regular school attendance.
DCF’s Role in Connecticut Child Abuse and Neglect Cases
When there is an allegation of child abuse or neglect, DCF becomes involved by opening an investigation. The agency might attempt to remove the child/children from the home if they believe they are in danger.
DCF investigations can be intrusive, stressful, and lengthy. The agency will schedule home visits and may ask you to sign agreements that give them the right to extend their authority over you and your relationship with your children.
Many families find it helpful to work with an attorney who can advise them on how to deal with DCF and even act as a liaison with investigators.
Criminal Charges for Child Abuse and Neglect
When someone alleges child abuse or neglect, the police often become involved as well as DCF. The police can investigate the situation and file criminal charges if they believe the situation warrants it.
In Connecticut, it’s not uncommon for authorities to file charges for Risk of Injury to a Minor, which is a felony and covers a broad range of conduct. If you are convicted of this charge, you could face jail time, fines, and lose your parental rights.
Defenses for Child Abuse and Neglect Claims
Given that these are sensitive offenses, crimes against children are harshly prosecuted in Connecticut. Even so, many of these allegations are the result of ill intentions on the part of one parent against another or a misunderstanding.
Several defenses can result in reduced charges or a case dismissal. Some of the defenses that our law firm has had experience using include:
- False accusations
- Accidental harm
- Insufficient evidence of neglect or abuse
- Parental right to discipline a child
Every case is unique, so the best strategy will depend on your particular circumstances.
Contact an Experienced Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney
If you are a parent in Connecticut and have been accused of abuse or neglect, your parental rights may be at stake. You may also be facing some severe consequences if you are convicted of a crime. These situations rarely work themselves out. It’s vital that you take immediate steps to protect your rights and freedom.
At The Christie Law Firm LLC, Attorney Nicole Christie has years of experience working DCF cases and extensive knowledge of this state’s applicable laws. Call our Hartford office today at (860) 461-7494 to schedule an initial consultation.