TALKS TO YOUR KID SECRETLY
Atty. Michael H. Agranoff
often asked, “DCF spoke to my kid without telling me. They grabbed him or her
at school and grilled them. Can they do that?”
a tricky question. If the kid is accused of a crime, then the police cannot
talk to the kid without a parent or guardian being present. If there is no
suitable parent or guardian, then the Court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to
take the place of the parent.
what if the parents themselves are suspected of abuse or neglect, and DCF is
There is a Connecticut statute covering this, C.G.S. Sec. 17a-101h.
statute says that DCF cannot speak to the kid without getting the consent of the
parent or guardian. But there is a catch: DCF does not need this consent if DCF
“has reason to believe” that the parent or guardian is the “perpetrator of the
skirts the issue by always claiming that it has reason to believe that the
parent caused the abuse. It never explains the difference between “reason to
believe” and “probable cause” or even “articulable suspicion”. In other words,
if there’s a referral leading to an investigation, that’s all DCF needs. The
statutory caveat is meaningless. DCF, in other words, always has “reason to
there’s more. The statute allows this non-consensual talk only for suspected
“abuse.” But DCF skirts that issue also, claiming that even the mildest
suspicion of neglect is automatically suspicion of abuse.
other words, DCF blatantly ignores the intent of the statute.
there’s still more. Even if the non-consensual interview of the child is
allowed, DCF is required to conduct the interview “in the presence of a
disinterested adult”, unless there is imminent risk of harm to the child, and
the disinterested adult is not available “after reasonable search.”
practice, however, DCF grabs the kid at school, and has a school teacher or
counselor or Principal present. School personnel, however, are thoroughly
intimidated by DCF, and are fearful of being charged with neglect themselves if
they don’t cooperate. The idea of a “disinterested adult” is a total myth.
situation, of course, helps to explain why DCF so vehemently opposes home
Thus, the answer to the question “Can DCF talk to my kid without my consent?” is
“No, except in certain restricted situations; but they do it anyway, and they get away with
office is working with our lobbyist to try to get the law strengthened to say
what it really means, and to provide penalties to DCF for violating the law.
It’s a long haul, but some day it may happen.
the meantime, the best advice is:
as you tell your kids not to talk to strangers, tell them not to talk to people
who ask private family questions, even if they say it is their job to keep kids
wants to talk about private topics to you, tell them that you want your parents
However, be sure to let DCF see your children at the
door, to ensure that they are safe and well. Otherwise, DCF may come with the
police for a "well-child check".
is of course wise to this, and uses every trick in the book to frighten the
kids. I have had many complaints of DCF investigators telling kids that they
were lying, and had better tell the truth.
Until and unless the law changes, with teeth put into it, this sad situation is
likely to continue.