Greenwich DCF Investigations Lawyer
An investigation of abuse or neglect by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (more commonly known as “DCF”) usually begins with a surprise knock on your front door, letter in your mailbox, or an unexpected phone call. Depending on the severity of the accusations against you and your family, DCF is required by law to respond within 12 or 72 hours. As the best attorneys understand, a DCF investigation is triggered by a “referral”—usually by a mandated reporter such as a police officer, teacher, coach, therapist or psychiatrist, who is required by law if they receive a report of child abuse or neglect, or suspect that abuse or neglect has taken place concerning a child under 18, or a student who is in high school or younger. DCF mandated reporter laws apply to public and private high schools, hospitals, day care centers, nursery schools, youth groups, and sports teams.
Top DCF attorneys know that once a report is called into the DCF hotline, it is assigned to a DCF investigation social worker who will launch an invasive and uncomfortable investigation into your family. They will want to inspect your home, interview your children without you present, and will often want to try and contact your kids’ schools, health care providers, therapists and sometimes your neighbors. So if you are the target of an investigation, then you should contact any of the top Greenwich DCF investigation lawyers from our from who can assist you and your family through the lengthy process, with the sole goal of getting DCF out of your life as quickly and possible.
What Do I Do When Connecticut DCF Comes to My House?
Ask any top Greenwich Connecticut DCF Investigation attorney: DCF investigators typically show up unannounced at your front door without giving you any notice. They will tell you this is because of the very short investigation response times required by law. Not quite. Here’s the truth: DCF believes that they will get the most genuine (as opposed to contrived or forged) impression of your family if they catch you by surprise. Don’t be afraid or intimidated to refused to let them into their home and ask them to come back later in the day, or later in the week, after you’ve had a chance to speak with a top Connecticut attorney! Even though these DCF workers may seem nice and are not dressed in uniform, appreciate that DCF workers are law enforcement officers. They can’t arrest you, but DCF has the power to share info with the police, go to court and try to impact your parental rights. So be polite, gracious and ask them for their business card. Let them know you will contact them later that day to schedule an appointment after you have a chance to talk to your legal representative. They may say that if you don’t speak with them immediately, they MAY or CAN go to court for a neglect or removal petition. Don’t be intimidated by their threats. Their interviews and assessment can usually wait a few hours, or a few days, depending on the seriousness of their case.
What is a DCF Investigation?
The best Greenwich attorneys understand that there are 2 kinds of DCF investigations, depending on the severity or complexity of the case. The lower-risk Connecticut DCF investigation is called a Family Assessment Response (a “FAR”). The higher risk investigative track is called a “Full Investigation,” which in the most serious cases, is accompanied by a Connecticut Superior Court DCF Neglect Petition or Order of Temporary Removal (an “OTR”) of your children from your home.
A DCF Family Assessment Response (“FAR”) Investigation
A Family Assessment Response (or “FAR”) is a 45-day risk assessment by a Connecticut DCF investigator. It is the most desirable DCF investigation as it is the easiest to navigate; however, it can quickly escalate into more problems if not properly handled by you or your attorney. It is a low-risk inquiry that mirrors the procedures and protocols of a “Full Investigation” but does not conclude with any findings, substantiations, or unsubstantiations of the abuse or neglect accusations. The most critical component of a DCF FAR investigation is that DCF can elevate the FAR case—at their sole discretion—to a Full Investigation, if any issues or concerns arise during the 45 day investigation, you fail a drug or alcohol test, or you or your kids share information that throw up red flags to the DCF investigator, or appear somehow uncooperative.
A “Full” DCF Investigation
The more serious Connecticut DCF investigative track is the “Full Investigation” which requires the investigating DCF social worker to issue a finding at the end of the 45 days, which either substantiates or unsubstantiates the findings. It’s essentially a guilty or not guilty finding, but you don’t get the right to present evidence or witness testimony to DCF, and you’re not privy to the information, reports or witness statements that DCF gathers during the investigation. Sound unfair? That’s because it is; however, DCF did not write these laws—they are following the regulations and procedures mandated by Connecticut lawmakers, so don’t hold it against them. At the conclusion of a “Full Investigation,” DCF closes your case, and issues its ruling by mail. Even more critically, in its closure letter, DCF may check two boxes on your DCF findings: first, whether you pose a continued threat to the health, safety and welfare of your children, and second, whether DCF is publishing your finding of abuse or neglect in its publicly available “Central Registry.” DCF will also notify you if they are ordering continuing services for your home, which, if rejected, could force DCF to start a court case against you.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?
One of the most common questions asked is whether DCF targets need to hire a lawyer to assist their family during a Department of Children & Families investigation of abuse or neglect. The answer is easy…yes. Having a top Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigations attorney by your side can not only help you get your case closed quickly, but an attorney can also try and keep the investigation from escalating and getting worse.
How Long Can DCF Keep a Case Open In CT?
When you’re sitting in front of a Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigator who is peppering you with questions, your first reaction is to be as forthcoming and open as possible. While no top Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigation law firm would ever advise you to lie to a DCF investigator, you must remember that everything you say to a DCF worker can be used against you. So if you start going into detail about any past issues of addiction, alcohol or substance abuse, arrest history, domestic violence, mental health diagnoses, medication regimens, anxiety, depression or anything else that may raise a red flag to a Connecticut DCF investigator, then DCF may want to keep your case open for months, even if those issues were resolved many years ago! Additionally, DCF will want to contact your children’s school, health care providers, therapists, and sometimes your neighbors if the facts warrant. They will ask you to sign release forms, and if you don’t have a top Connecticut DCF lawyer present, then you may feel pressured to sign the releases. Know you have a choice to say no to DCF. So if you are being investigated by DCF in Greenwich Connecticut and want to do everything you can to prevent the investigation from escalating, and would prefer to keep third parties out of the investigation, be sure to contact a top Greenwich Connecticut DCF lawyer attorney for a consultation.
Does DCF Have the Right to Talk to My Kids Without a Parent Present?
Yes. While you may not be permitted to be present for this interview, you are allowed to have your top Greenwich Connecticut DCF lawyer sit by your child’s side during the DCF investigator’s interview. Your lawyer can record the interview, take notes, and stop the interview immediately if the DCF investigator is upsetting your child.
Not So Fast! Don’t Sign a DCF Safety Plan or Service Without Consulting a Lawyer
Another “signature move” by Greenwich Connecticut DCF agents is their demand that you sign a “DCF Safety Plan” or “DCF Service Agreement” at the start of your Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigation. The best Greenwich Connecticut DCF law firms know that DCF will end your initial assessment interview by asking you to “just sign” a DCF safety plan or service agreement. This is always presented to you as a yellow or pink form which includes handwritten conditions that DCF will want you to agree to during the investigation.
The Safety Plan’s conditions can be onerous, meaning they can be overbearing, unnecessary and overly broad and restrictive. Conditions can include DCF-mandated supervised child visitation, restraining orders preventing you from being in the home, alcohol evaluations, drug testing, anger management, or parenting classes. And most of the time, DCF will not explain the legal consequences of signing a Connecticut DCF safety plan. Instead, they will focus on the legal consequences of NOT signing one, such as court intervention, temporary removal of your children, and foster care. Again, these are usually worst case scenarios, but when a parent hears the words “foster care,” they get scared (rightfully so) and will usually sign anything put in front of them. What parents don’t appreciate and what the best Greenwich Connecticut DCF lawyers can explain to you is that signing a DCF safety agreement or service plan essentially strips you of your constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial against DCF. So before signing any DCF Service Agreement or Safety Plan, be sure to tell Greenwich DCF that you need a few hours to contact a top Connecticut DCF Investigation lawyer in Greenwich Connecticut.
How to Cost-Effectively Fight a DCF Investigation in Greenwich Connecticut
One of the best ways to fight a DCF investigation is to hire a Greenwich Connecticut DCF lawyer to protect your family, shield you from unreasonable DCF demands, and advocate with DCF investigators and supervisors to close your case as quickly as possible. An experienced and competent Connecticut DCF lawyer attorney will know how to walk that fine line with DCF between cooperation, client protection and measured advocacy. If this is your first experience with DCF and you and your family are a target of a Greenwich DCF investigation, then it’s worth the time and money to sit for an initial consultation with a DCF lawyer to fully understand the process and your rights. You can also check out our blog for more tips on fighting a Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigation.
Can I Appeal My Connecticut DCF Substantiation Case?
Yes. In fact, the Connecticut DCF appeal process offers the most transparent procedures and protocols within the entire DCF system. As the best Connecticut DCF investigation attorneys and lawyers know, once you receive a letter in the mail informing you that DCF has substantiated allegations of moral neglect, physical neglect, emotional neglect or physical abuse against you, then you have a short period of time to file an appeal. You will also be notified by mail if your substantiation findings will be published in the public DCF Central Registry. Top Connecticut DCF appeal lawyers and attorneys understand that your appeal will first be subject to an internal DCF review, and then you will have an option to have a contested DCF appeal hearing, where you and your top Greenwich Connecticut DCF lawyer attorney can subpoena witnesses, demand production of medical records and police reports, and most importantly, cross-examine the DCF investigator and have a fair hearing before an impartial hearing officer. Demanding a DCF appeal hearing can also help you in any parallel Greenwich Connecticut arrest case linked to your DCF case, but make sure you first talk to your top Greenwich Connecticut criminal lawyer attorney about the risks of taking the witness stand or possibly taking the Fifth Amendment during your appeal hearing. You can also click here for more details on how to appeal a Greenwich Connecticut DCF substantiation case.
Can I Get a Copy of My Greenwich Connecticut DCF Investigation File?
Absolutely, but only after your DCF case is closed. Ask any of the best Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigation law firms if they could file papers with the DCF legal department for a complete copy of all witness statements, police interviews, and evidence summary sheets that DCF collected during your investigation. These records can actually be very helpful in parallel criminal or divorce or child custody proceedings, especially if you think your spouse or another family member have made false reports to DCF to try and jam you up in a custody case. So if you want a copy of the full DCF records, give a call to any of the top Greenwich Connecticut DCF lawyers or attorneys today.
DCF Investigations Following a Greenwich Connecticut Domestic Violence Arrest
The best DCF law firms in Greenwich Connecticut know that most DCF cases begin with a referral from the Greenwich Police Department, who are required by law to make a DCF investigation referral when a Greenwich domestic violence dispute arrest takes place in the presence or vicinity of children under 18, even if the children were not involved in the dispute. When minor children are in the home or in the presence of a Greenwich Connecticut domestic violence arrest, DCF investigators must assess whether the children were at, and are at, continued risk of abuse or any kind of moral, emotional or physical neglect. In these situations, people arrested for a domestic violence crime in Connecticut like Disorderly Conduct, Assault, Strangulation or Risk of Injury need to be very careful about what they disclose to a DCF investigator. Everything you say to a Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigator can and will be used against you in your criminal court case. In fact, most people don’t know this, but DCF agents actually participate in the Stamford Superior Court domestic violence docket team meetings, and will highlight any DCF issues you and your family are going through to the state’s attorney and family relations office. So if a DCF investigation has been triggered by a Greenwich Connecticut arrest for a domestic violence crime, contact any of the best DCF / criminal lawyers and attorneys in Greenwich Connecticut right away. You can also follow this link to learn more about fighting Connecticut DCF investigations that accompany a Connecticut domestic violence arrest.
DCF Investigations Following a Risk of Injury / Unsupervised Child in Car Arrest
Similarly, Greenwich Police Department officers are legally mandated to call DCF whenever they arrest someone for Risk of Injury to a Minor / Child Endangerment under CGS 53-21, or make an arrest in Greenwich Connecticut for Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle under CGS 53-21a. These are two charges that the best DCF criminal lawyers and attorneys in Greenwich Connecticut usually always see go hand-in-hand with a DCF investigation because the nature of the charges are so deeply rooted in allegations of child abuse or neglect. And just like a Greenwich domestic violence arrest, everything you say to the DCF investigator could be shared with Greenwich Police or with the State’s Attorney, so be sure to have an experienced Greenwich Connecticut DCF criminal lawyer by your side. Remember, leaving a child under 16 in a car alone—even just for a few minutes—is against the law in Connecticut (click here for more on Unsupervised Child in Car arrests in Greenwich Connecticut). The goal is to get through your Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigation as quickly as possible, leaving the best impression with DCF, and not compromising your defense to your Greenwich Connecticut arrest for Risk of Injury or Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle. Hot car baby deaths are on everyone’s mind in the warm summer months so it’s critical that you make a good impression on DCF so they will not substantiate abuse or neglect allegations against you. Keep reading here for more on DCF investigations during Risk of Injury / Child Unsupervised in Car cases.
Contact a Greenwich Connecticut DCF Investigation Attorney Today
So if a DCF investigator agent has come to your home in Greenwich Connecticut, or reached out to you by phone, then contact any of the experienced Greenwich Connecticut DCF investigation lawyers at Mark Sherman Law today. Our sole goal is to protect your family’s privacy and reputation, and get your DCF case closed as quickly, quietly and cost-effectively as possible, without any substantiation findings of abuse or neglect. So give us a call today. We are available 24/7.