New Canaan DCF Lawyer
An investigation by the New Canaan Connecticut Department of Children and Families (usually known as “DCF”) can often come as a surprise. Depending on the nature of the allegations against you, DCF is required to respond within 12 to 72 hours. And as any of the best New Canaan Connecticut DCF lawyers understand, a DCF investigation is almost always triggered by a referral to DCF, usually made by a “mandated reporter” in Connecticut, such as a police officer, teacher, coach, doctor, or therapist. Mandated reporters in Connecticut are required by law to file a report with Connecticut DCF if they receive any report (whether it be true of false) of child abuse or neglect for any child under 18, or any student who is in high school or younger.
The top criminal attorneys will tell you that once DCF receives a report, the case is assigned to a DCF investigation social worker who must immediately launch an in depth investigation into you and your family. They will want to inspect your home, interview your children and family members separately from you, and will often try and contact your children’s schools and primary care givers. So if you are the target of a DCF investigation, then you should immediately contact a New Canaan DCF lawyer to help you get through the investigation as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Don’t Let the DCF Investigator Into Your Home Until You Speak with a Lawyer
The best New Canaan Connecticut DCF investigation law firms know that almost all DCF investigations start with a surprise knock on your door by a DCF social worker (or they drop a letter in your mailbox). Why the surprise element? That’s because DCF operates under the assumption that they will get the most accurate and realistic impression of your family if they show up by surprise for the first interview and assessment.
But here’s where you need to exercise your rights…do not be afraid to tell the social worker that you refuse to let them into your home, and ask them to come back either later in the day or later that week after you’ve had a chance to speak with an attorney. They may be annoyed. They may pressure you to let them into your home. But know that it is your absolute right to refuse them entry into your home and reschedule that meeting.
What Does a New Canaan Connecticut DCF Investigation Entail?
The most experienced New Canaan DCF attorneys appreciate that there are 2 types of DCF investigations: a “FAR” investigation and a “Full” Investigation. FAR stands for a “Family Assessment Response” investigation and is a low risk investigation. “Full” investigations are reserved for the more serious abuse or neglect DCF investigations, and in serious cases, can result in an “Order of Temporary Removal” hearing (an “OTR”) which is issued by the Connecticut Superior Court.
What is a DCF Family Assessment Response (FAR) Investigation?
Many of the best New Canaan Connecticut DCF attorneys understand that FAR investigations are 45-day risk assessments conducted by Connecticut DCF investigators. DCF Family Assessment Responses, however, can quickly turn into a much bigger problem if not handled properly. It is a low-risk investigation that deals with the same procedures and protocols as a Full Investigation but does not end with any findings, substantiations, or un-substantiations of the abuse or neglect accusations. The most serious consequences of a DCF FAR investigation in New Canaan is that DCF can at raise a FAR investigation to a Full Investigation, especially safety or stability issues or concerns arise during the 45-day investigation. These types of issues include: failing a drug test or alcohol test, red flags raised by interviews with you or your kids, or if DCF feels you are being dishonest or uncooperative.
A “Full” DCF (OTR) Investigation
A Full DCF investigation is the most serious investigation and involves a dedicated DCF social worker, a 45-day investigation, and a formal, written finding issued at the end of the investigation. This finding will either substantiate or un-substantiate the allegations, which can feel like a guilty or not guilty finding. The problem with a Full Investigation, however, is that you are unable to present any of your own evidence before an impartial judge, or know any of the information that the DCF social worker is gathering. DCF is the judge. If this sounds unfair, that’s because it is—so don’t try to go through this investigation without contacting a top New Canaan DCF attorney immediately.
When Your DCF Case Closes
At the end of a Full Investigation, DCF closes the investigative phase of your case, and then issues its ruling in a letter that you receive in the mail. And if the Full Investigation doesn’t go well, DCF may then force in-home services on you which you will feel pressured to accept. When you get this investigation closing letter, make sure to look closely at the letter because DCF can check 2 boxes on the findings: (1) whether you pose a continued threat to the health, safety, and welfare of your children; and (2) whether DCF is going to publish your finding of abuse or neglect on the Central Registry. The Central Registry is publicly available for anyone to access, and can cause havoc with employment background checks, youth sports coaching opportunities, or any other volunteer work you’d like to engage in with children.
How Do I Know If I Need to Hire an Attorney?
One of the most frequently asked questions of law firms is whether you need to hire a lawyer to help you with a New Canaan DCF investigation. Of course you do. DCF has the power to modify your custodial rights to your children, so having a top New Canaan Connecticut DCF attorney by your side can not only help you get through the investigation as quickly as possible, but an attorney can also try and keep the DCF investigation from getting any worse or escalating to Stamford Superior Court.
Preparing for Your DCF Home Assessment & Interview
While you’re being interviewed by a DCF agent or investigator, your first reaction is probably to be as forthcoming and honest as possible. While no top New Canaan Connecticut DCF attorney will ever advise you to lie to a DCF social worker, you certainly should realize that everything you say to DCF can be used against you. So if you start going into great detail about old and resolved family history issues of addiction, arrest history, domestic violence, mental health issues, or anything else that might raise a red flag to a DCF social worker, then your New Canaan DCF investigator might want to keep your case open for months longer. Additionally, DCF will want to contact your children’s school, primary caregivers, doctors, and sometimes even your neighbors during the course of their investigation. They will ask you to sign release forms, and without a top attorney to explain to you what you are signing, you may be pressured to sign these releases. One of the most important things to remember is that you have a right to say no to DCF. So if you are being investigated by DCF and want to do everything you can to keep the investigation from getting any worse, you should contact any of the best attorneys and lawyers immediately to assist you.
Can DCF Talk to My Children Without a Parent / Guardian Present?
Yes. DCF can talk to your children without a parent present, but you are, however, permitted to have your top New Canaan Connecticut DCF attorney sit in on the interview. Your lawyer can record the interview, take notes, advise your child, and even stop the interview at any time if your child is getting upset or uncomfortable.
Should I Sign a New Canaan DCF Safety Plan or Service?
Maybe, but not before a lawyer reviews it.
Many New Canaan Connecticut DCF investigators and agents will insist that you sign a DCF Safety Plan or Service Agreement at the beginning of your investigation. Any top New Canaan DCF attorney will tell you that DCF will end your initial assessment interview by asking you to sign one of these pink or yellow forms. These forms include written conditions tailored to your family that DCF will require you to comply with during the course of their investigation.
New Canaan DCF safety plan and service agreement conditions can be extremely burdensome. They can include some mandated DCF supervised child visitation, restraining orders preventing you from being present in the home, alcohol monitoring / evaluations, drug testing, anger management, or parenting classes. And most of the time, DCF will not explain the legal consequences that are a consequence of signing these forms, which is why it is critical that you consult a top New Canaan Connecticut DCF lawyer attorney before signing one of these forms. So before you sign any DCF service agreement or safety plan, push back and tell the DCF worker that you need a few hours to contact your top New Canaan DCF lawyer and that you will call them back later. They legally have to provide you with ample time to speak with a lawyer.
Even Though They’re Not in Uniform, DCF Investigators Are Law Enforcement Agents
While DCF social workers will often seem pleasant and harmless, know that a DCF social worker is operating as a law enforcement officer. And while New Canaan Connecticut DCF social workers cannot arrest you, they can freely share their information with police officers, take you to court, and can in serious cases, impact and modify your rights and visitation with your children. So if you are faced with a surprise visit from a New Canaan DCF social worker…don’t let them into your home, ask them to come back at a later time, and immediately contact a top New Canaan DCF lawyer.
How to Fight Your DCF Investigation In New Canaan Cost-Effectively
One of the best ways to fight your New Canaan DCF investigation is to hire a top New Canaan DCF lawyer to stand by your family’s side for the in-home assessment and follow-up DCF visits. They sit next to each family member during the one-on-one interviews, can run interference for your family, and they try to close your New Canaan DCF case as cost-effectively and as timely as possible. Any of the best New Canaan DCF lawyers attorneys will also know how to navigate the investigation so it won’t escalate or get worse. So if this is your first experience with New Canaan DCF and you are the target of an investigation, then contact a top New Canaan DCF investigation lawyer as soon as possible.
How Do I Appeal My New Canaan DCF Substantiation Decision?
The Connecticut DCF appeal process offers perhaps the most fair and transparent procedures in the entire DCF process. Once you receive a letter in the mail that informs you that DCF has substantiated the allegations of abuse or neglect against you, you then have a short time period to appeal the decision. Even more importantly, and as the top New Canaan Connecticut DCF lawyers and attorneys can explain, you will also be informed in this letter whether the substantiation findings will be published in DCF’s Public Central Registry.
New Canaan DCF Appeals: An Internal Review Followed by Hearing
Once you file your Connecticut DCF appeal, it will first go through an internal DCF review. You don’t have a right to a hearing for this internal review. You don’t even have the right to send them additional information. DCF will then mail you the results of this internal review, and if the appeal is upheld, you will then have an option to elect a contested DCF appeal hearing where you and your top New Canaan DCF appeal lawyer attorney can subpoena witnesses, demand medical records and police reports, and most importantly, cross-examine witnesses and the DCF investigator. Strategically, having a DCF appeal hearing can also help you fight any arrest that is associated with your New Canaan DCF case. But before you take the stand yourself, make sure you contact a top New Canaan DCF criminal lawyer to ensure that it is the wisest decision for your criminal case. And for more on New Canaan DCF appeals, follow this link for more discussion and insight on filing a New Canaan Connecticut DCF appeal.
Am I Entitled to a Copy of My New Canaan DCF Investigation File?
Yes, but only after your DCF case is closed. Any top New Canaan DCF attorney lawyer can assist you with filing requests with State of Connecticut DCF staff lawyers for a complete copy of your file, which includes witness statements, police interviews, phone call abstracts, and evidence summary sheets that were collected during your DCF investigation. These records can also be very helpful in your criminal case connected to your DCF investigation, especially if you think that someone has made false reports to DCF to try and hurt you in a related divorce case or criminal case. So if you need a full copy of your DCF investigation file, contact a top New Canaan DCF attorney today.
DCF Investigations After Your New Canaan Domestic Violence Arrest
Many of the top New Canaan Connecticut DCF lawyers and attorneys know that most DCF cases that arise out of a domestic violence situation begin with a referral from the New Canaan Police Department. As “mandated reporters,” New Canaan Police officers are required by law to file a DCF referral after a New Canaan domestic violence incident has occurred if children were in the house or were in the presence of a domestic violence incident. DCF social workers must then open a case and begin their assessment as to whether the children were in danger, or were at risk of any type of moral, emotional, or physical neglect or abuse.
New Canaan DCF Investigators Will Chime In on Your Criminal Case
In every DCF investigation following a domestic violence arrest in New Canaan for Disorderly Conduct, Assault or Risk of Injury, you need to be very careful as to what you disclose to a New Canaan DCF investigator. Remember, everything that you say to DCF can and will be used against you in your criminal case. And what most people don’t realize is that DCF investigators can actively participate in your Norwalk Superior Court domestic violence case. They will not hesitate to pick up the phone and call the prosecutor overseeing your case, or file a report with the Norwalk Court family relations officer monitoring your case. Follow this link to learn more about fighting your DCF investigation in connection with your New Canaan domestic violence arrest, and be sure to contact a top New Canaan Connecticut criminal law firm to make sure you are handling your DCF case properly.
DCF Investigations Following Risk of Injury / Unsupervised Child in Car Arrests
New Canaan Police Officers are also legally required to make a referral to New Canaan DCF whenever they arrest someone for Risk of Injury to a Minor or Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Car under C.G.S. 53-21. These are two criminal charges that any top New Canaan criminal defense attorney will tell you almost always triggers a DCF investigation simply because of the nature of the charges, even if you left your child in a car for just a few minutes. So if you are facing Risk of Injury to a Minor or Unsupervised Child in a Car charges under CGS 53-21, then be sure to contact a top New Canaan criminal defense attorney today to get you through both your criminal case and the DCF case, as quickly and harmlessly as possible. The goals are simple: getting your criminal charge dropped and expunged, and closing out your New Canaan DCF case, without any duplicative or harassing interviews of you and your children. You can click here for more on DCF investigations arising from Risk of Injury / Child Unsupervised in Car arrests in New Canaan Connecticut.
Contact a New Canaan DCF Investigation Lawyer Today
So if a DCF investigator or social worker shows up at your door, then contact a New Canaan DCF lawyer today. The Mark Sherman Law team can take on each case with the goal of protecting your family’s privacy and reputation, while getting your case closed as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, if possible, without any substantiation findings of abuse or neglect. So give the team a call today. We are available 24/7 to take your call.