Dealing with Connecticut DCF
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) is not a child welfare agency. It is a child protection agency. And that means that it sometimes becomes a child removal agency.
DCF has many ways to enter your life, including: investigations and home visits; pressuring you into signing Safety Plans; placing you on the Child Abuse/Neglect Registry; and summoning you into Juvenile Court on a petition alleging that your kids are abused, neglected, or uncared-for.
However, the major weapon in DCF’s arsenal is the Order of Temporary Custody, or OTC. The OTC temporarily removes your kids. In the vast majority of cases, the OTC is sustained by the Court.
You then have to fight to get the kids back, before DCF files its ultimate sanction: the Termination of Parental Rights petition, or TPR.
OTC and TPR fights are bone-crunching battles:
These are not criminal cases. Therefore, parents do not have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers at a public trial. They do not ordinarily have the right of habeas corpus.
These are not ordinary civil cases. Therefore, the rules of evidence are relaxed, meaning that hearsay evidence can often be used against parents.
The odds are further stacked against parents. DCF is a huge state bureaucracy, with thousands of social workers, hundreds of contractors dependent upon DCF for revenue, and dozens of well-paid and well-benefited state lawyers, called Assistant Attorneys General (AAG’s). In contrast, court-appointed DCF defense lawyers are poorly paid and receive no state benefits.
Since the emotional issue of child protection is involved, many Judges understandably err on the side of caution.
If your kids have been taken, or if DCF has called upon you for any reason, you may wish to consider retaining a private lawyer who is skilled and experienced in DCF defense. If you already have a lawyer, you may wish to get a second opinion.
DCF may tell you that things will be easier if you simply do what they say and don’t call a lawyer. That is too ridiculous for words, but some people fall for it, to their eventual regret.
Whatever you do, PLEASE: do not ask social workers for legal advice, or seek out amateurs on the internet. That is suicide.
When DCF Files an OTC
When your kids are taken on an OTC, it is time to stop talking to DCF and time to get a lawyer. No amount of arguing with the social worker will reverse the OTC. It is not like being investigated by the police, and trying to convince the detective that you have a good alibi and are innocent. When an OTC is filed, DCF pulls out all the stops.
It is important to understand that OTC’s and TPR’s are not like criminal and ordinary civil cases. Unless you have a lawyer who is experienced with the ins-and-outs of DCF, knows all their tricks, and is fluent in Juvenile Court motion practice, you will be at a severe disadvantage against the AAG.
BE CLEAR: When your kids are taken, the burden is on you to get them back. Unless you are willing to listen to your lawyer, the task will be much more difficult, if not impossible. If your goal is to argue or vent, rather than to do what is necessary to reunify your family, then you are wasting your money by hiring a private lawyer.
OTC is serious business. It may lead to TPR, and the permanent loss of your kids. This is no time for nonsense.
Atty. Michael H. Agranoff
Atty. Michael H. Agranoff graduated Hall High School in West Hartford in 1960. After serving three years in the U.S. Army, he received his B.A. from the University of Hartford. He then embarked on a career in data processing, now called information technology, and worked for 20 years as a computer programmer, systems analyst, and data security manager.
Agranoff then attended the UConn Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1988. In 1991, he began working as a DCF defense lawyer. His career has involved all aspects of DCF defense: investigations; home visits; substantiations; registry; abuse/neglect court cases; relative placements; foster parent issues; OTC’s; and TPR’s. He has represented hundreds of parents, grandparents, and other adult relatives in Juvenile Court. In earlier days, he also represented children in the DCF system.
Agranoff set several standards in DCF defense, including: regularly attending home visits to help parents deal effectively with DCF; ensuring that court-appointed psychologists were truly independent, and no longer paid and reviewed by DCF; challenging DCF positions with frequent motions in court, at a time when many lawyers simply hoped for the best; and often advising other lawyers on how to deal with DCF. His prior web site has been frequently adopted by DCF defense lawyers throughout the state. As more than one social worker put it, “Agranoff is the only lawyer that we are afraid of.”
On October 28, 2016, at the age of 74, Agranoff closed his main office. He was unable to find a suitable and willing associate to continue his DCF defense practice under his direction. Sadly, many young lawyers today are not dedicated to family rights, but prefer the security and benefits of State employment.
Agranoff is now available, as a solo practitioner, to help adults who are involved with DCF. He is also available for second opinions.
He offers the same dedication that he showed in 25 years as a full-service DCF defense lawyer, but must of necessity restrict his practice, in most instances, to serious cases in Tolland and Windham Counties, Connecticut. However, other areas may be considered.
Agranoff is also willing to assist lawyers who do not concentrate in DCF defense and need help in this area. This has proven extremely successful in the past.
If you have questions, please contact:
Atty. Michael H. Agranoff
101 West Shore Road
Ellington, CT 06029