The Stamford Advocate recently reported that the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (also known as “DCF”) is stepping up their investigation and intervention efforts and protocols to ensure that Connecticut children are being kept safe from abuse and neglect. As many of the top DCF lawyers in Stamford, Connecticut will tell you, what this really means is that DCF investigators are going to get more aggressive for the majority of cases where DCF is required to get involved. We often get frantic calls from hard-working parents who just want to keep DCF and government investigators out of their lives and from knocking on the doors of their kids’ doctors, teachers and neighbors.
Can anything else be done to short-circuit lengthy and unnecessary DCF investigations?
Absolutely. Here’s your answer…
The most important purpose of DCF is to keep Connecticut’s children safe from physical and emotional abuse and neglect. DCF is not the police. They do not have the absolute power to arrest you or take your children away from you. DCF must refer cases to the police if they believe a crime has been committed. Additionally, Connecticut DCF is required to petition the Superior Court – Juvenile Division in order to begin child removal proceedings. So while DCF is not the final authority on arrest or removal proceedings, they are certainly part of the process.
We have seen more and more family intervention efforts originating from Stamford DCF and Greenwich DCF investigators in recent months. DCF does not randomly select which families to check up on. New DCF cases are triggered by “referrals”—these are similar to 911 calls except they are to DCF, not to the police or fire departments. Referrals generally come from people classified as Connecticut DCF “mandated reporters”—people who are required by law to report suspicions of child abuse or child neglect. They are usually educators, pediatricians, nurses, therapists and psychologists—all people who work regularly with children and would be most likely to observe a child in distress. A majority of DCF referrals also originate from local law enforcement like the Stamford Police, Darien Police and Greenwich Police who are regularly dispatched to Connecticut domestic violence calls where there are children involved or nearby.
Many DCF referrals arise from a domestic violence arrest. If you have been arrested for a Connecticut domestic violence crime like 53-21 Risk of Injury, 53a-182 Disorderly Conduct, 53a-223 Violation of Protective Order, or 53a-61 Assault, and there are children in the family home, then a DCF investigation is almost certainly going to take place. Within 48-72 hours, a DCF investigator will show up at your front door to begin the investigation. The best Stamford and Greenwich domestic violence criminal lawyers will usually offer to assist you in the DCF investigation. And if they don’t offer to help you, then you should call a top Stamford Connecticut DCF lawyer or attorney to better understand your rights and protect you and your family during the investigation.
If a Stamford, Greenwich or Darien DCF investigator comes to your door, don’t panic. You are under no legal obligation to immediately let them into your home, sign any of their paperwork, or speak with them. Sometimes a DCF investigator may suggest or indicate that retaining a Connecticut DCF is not necessary. Disregard any legal advice from a DCF worker. They are not your attorneys. In fact, anything (and usually everything) you say to a DCF investigator can and will be incorporated into the DCF investigator’s notes, and will be used against you if appropriate. Sometimes they will even tape-record your statements. Understand that DCF investigators are well-intentioned—but also understand their mission is to protect your children, not you, so they will usually err on the side of caution and conservatism in their risk assessments and investigation findings.
When DCF reaches out to you—whether by phone, mail or at your front door—the best option is to respectfully take their name and phone number and let them know that you or your Connecticut DCF lawyer will contact them on the next business day to schedule an appointment mutually convenient for everyone. This gives you some time to consult with a top Connecticut DCF attorney to figure out why DCF is approaching you in the first place and to further decide whether you need a Connecticut DCF lawyer to assist you in the investigation.
Finally, one last question we frequently get is whether you should sign the paperwork that DCF has put in front of you during their investigations. These are usually release forms authorizing DCF to speak with your children’s schools, teachers, doctors, and therapists. While this can sometimes be very helpful for all the parties involved in serious cases of abuse or neglect, it can be very intrusive in minor cases. Unfortunately, this is DCF protocol and DCF does not always make this distinction. So before you sign any release paperwork, make sure you call an experienced Stamford DCF lawyer for advice.
So as Connecticut DCF dials up its efforts to vigilantly protect Connecticut children, you should understand that parents have plenty of rights as well. It’s normal to get nervous when the government starts talking about your rights to your kids. Don’t’ be intimidated. Get an aggressive DCF lawyer in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan to assist you in this often one-sided, lopsided process. Call one of the DCF lawyers at Mark Sherman Law today. We are available for a free phone consultation today at (203) 358-4700.