The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has a responsibility to investigate all allegations that it receives of abuse and neglect. When the agency believes that it has cause, it will recommend the removal of a child from the home, which can be stressful for all involved.
After its investigation, DCF can decide to petition the court to have your child temporarily removed from the home. Provide the court agrees, your child might be placed in foster care or with relatives. There is often confusion among parents about the difference between the reunification process and the reinstation of parental rights. Here is what you need to know.
The Reunification Process in Connecticut
The reunification process refers to bringing a parent and their children back together after temporary separation by the courts. As stated above, the child has been temporarily placed with a relative or in foster care, giving the parent time to address the issues that prompted the DCF investigation.
An important distinction is that this situation is meant to be temporary only. You, as the parent, maintain your full parental rights. You also have the ability to visit your children during this period and should do so.
Provided the parent satisfies various contingencies, such as getting counseling or completing substance abuse treatment, the reunification process can likely begin. The court will instruct DCF to complete another in-home interview and visit, and you can receive guidance from your attorney on this process.
Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut
Unfortunately, the termination of parental rights is exactly what it sounds like: DCF petitions the court to demonstrate why the parent’s legal rights should be permanently terminated. If the court agrees, there will be an order which removes a parent’s rights to the child.
There are several grounds for the termination of parental rights:
Most termination of parental rights cases fall under the umbrella of neglect. A child is usually placed in temporary protective custody due to concerns about safety in the home environment. The parent has a limited amount of time to address the issues that caused the commitment.
If DCF believes that the parent hasn’t addressed the issues or rehabilitated themselves enough to provide a safe environment for the child, they will file a petition to terminate parental rights.
Abuse is another potential grounds to terminate parental rights. This can be for physical, psychological, or sexual abuse of a child.
When a parent is accused of abandoning a child, DCF can file to terminate that parent’s parental rights. Abandonment means that the parent, while having the means, has failed to make provisions for the child’s support or failed to establish or maintain a positive relationship with the child.
- Parent has committed murder or assault
- Parent has been convicted of sexual assault resulting in conception
- There is no ongoing relationship between the parent and child
- The parent consents to the termination
Is Reinstatement of Parental Rights Possible?
Every U.S. state has laws providing for the termination of parental rights. But only 22 states have legislation in place allowing for the reinstatement of parental rights following termination. Connecticut is not one of them.
Once a person’s parental rights to a minor have been terminated, they have no further legal responsibilities or rights with respect to the child. For example, the former-parent would no longer have custody or visitation rights or any child support responsibilities. The only way a parent would be able to maintain a relationship with the child is if the foster or adopting families allowed it.
If you live in Connecticut and the termination of your parental rights is a possibility, you have reason to be concerned. This is not something you can get reversed, so it’s important to approach a case like this correctly.
Speak with a Qualified Connecticut DCF Attorney
Reunification and reinstatement of parental rights are two very different processes. Ideally, your family won’t be placed in a position where children are removed from the home by DCF, either temporarily or permanently. As soon as you receive notice that DCF will be involved in your life, your best course of action is to protect your rights by hiring an experienced DCF attorney.
The Christie Law Firm specializes in helping parents and their children who are the subject of a DCF investigation. Our knowledgeable and trusted DCF attorney has over a decade of experience as a DCF social worker. She will give you sound advice and protect your rights during DCF hearings and interviews so that you and your children are treated fairly. Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.