You have the right to have an attorney present when DCF comes
to your home. Our office will attend home visits with DCF, and
will ensure that your rights are protected.
At present, a DCF investigation begins when DCF gets a "referral" of possible child abuse or neglect. Most referrals come from four sources: public schools; neighbors; police; hospital emergency rooms. Of course, referrals may come from other sources also. Sometimes referrals are made in bad faith from a person who has a grudge against you. These are frustrating, but it is often impossible to find out who made a referral if the caller wishes to remain anonymous. See FAQ #2.
The DCF "call" itself takes many forms. Sometimes you get a letter. Sometimes you get a card on your front door. Sometimes DCF just shows up at your house and implies that if you do not let them in, they will seize the child. In some cases, a DCF worker gets a police officer to stand at the door, for the purpose of intimidating you. [DCF manages this by convincing the officer that you are dangerous, and that the investigator needs the officer for protection].
Worse, DCF sometimes shows up at the school and speaks to the child directly. DCF is not allowed to do this except in emergency situations, but they do it anyway. See When DCF Talks to Your Kid Secretly. We are working to get the law changed to disallow this, but as of this writing, it is a common practice. See Three Frightening Situations.
As always, the worst thing that you can do is speak to DCF without a lawyer present, or to sign anything without a lawyer reviewing it first. The most human tendency in the world is to angrily try to defend yourself. This almost always makes it worse. DCF knows exactly how to trap inexperienced persons into making damaging statements; and these are used against you for years to come.
Call a lawyer immediately.
Do not panic.
Do not take legal advice from friends, doctors, teachers, social workers or other well-wishers. They may mean well, but they are generally over their heads.
Remember that a DCF
investigation is not like a police investigation on "Law and
Order." DCF presumes that you are guilty, and does not go
away and find "another suspect." The rules are totally different
from criminal law.
DCF has 45 days to conduct its investigation. At the end of the 45 day period, DCF must make a determination of whether abuse or neglect has occurred. If DCF determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred, they will "substantiate" you. If you are substantiated and meet certain other criteria, DCF may also recommend you for placement on their Central Registry.
Once the investigation is completed and a decision has been made on substantiation, DCF can either close its case with your family or keep it open to provide services.
In some cases, DCF may also file an Abuse/Neglect petition against you in the Juvenile Court.
NOTE ON THE “DIFFERENTIAL RESPONSE” FOR LOW-RISK FAMILIES
DCF announced in February, 2012, that it was instituting a “differential response” system to referrals of child neglect or abuse.
Under the new system, if DCF receives a report of relatively minor neglect on a family that is not otherwise suspect, then it will not use a “traditional” investigation. Rather, it will simply “offer to help the family”.
The DCF Investigator will politely explain that this is not an investigation; rather, it is a "Family Assessment Response."
The effect may be to make a family relax its guard, think that it is not really being investigated, and determine that it does not need a lawyer. That would be a serious mistake.
Any DCF visit to a family following a referral is an investigation, no matter how it is styled. The family may be subject to intrusive questioning, may be asked to sign releases of its information, and may be asked to engage in services that it feels it does not need. Failure to comply may result in a “traditional” investigation, or the filing of a substantiation or neglect petition.
In other words, an investigation is an investigation. Do not be misled. If DCF is involved with your family, then you need a lawyer.
IF YOU DEAL WITH DCF WITHOUT A LAWYER, you are up against the
entire State of Connecticut on your own. The odds are not
good. Our goal is to protect your rights, and get DCF out of