Stamford DCF Lawyer
The top Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation lawyers and attorneys know that all Stamford DCF investigations begin with a “referral.” These referrals typically originate from someone who is mandated by Connecticut law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Examples of mandated reporters include police officers, teachers, therapists, family relations officers, domestic violence social workers, doctors, and nurses. If these professionals suspect, witness, or receive a report of any kind of abuse or neglect of a child under 18 (or of a high school student regardless of age), then they are required by law to make a referral to the Connecticut DCF emergency hotline.
A Stamford criminal lawyer knows that Connecticut law requires DCF to respond to a report of abuse or neglect within 12 to 72 hours, depending on how severe the accusations are against you and your family. Once a report gets called into DCF’s abuse and neglect hotline, it gets assigned to one of the agency’s investigative social workers. The Stamford Connecticut DCF worker then shows up at your front door, unannounced, or leaves a letter in your mailbox, hoping to catch you and your family unprepared and off-guard.
The investigation is invasive and comprehensive, requiring home inspections, private interviews with your children, calls to your children’s schools, doctors, and therapists, and even questioning of your neighbors. When you find yourself targeted by a Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation, you should call any of the best Stamford Connecticut DCF law firms to help you set boundaries with DCF, protect your family’s privacy, and get DCF out of your life as soon as possible.
What Is a Stamford Connecticut DCF Investigation?
There are two kinds of Stamford Connecticut DCF investigations. The first is a lower-risk investigation called a Family Assessment Response (often called a “FAR”). The second is a “Full Investigation” designed to investigate higher-risk families and more serious Connecticut DCF allegations of abuse or neglect. The most serious Stamford Connecticut DCF Full Investigations are accompanied by a Connecticut Superior Court DCF Neglect Petition or Order of Temporary Removal (called an “OTR”).
What To Do When a DCF Worker Shows Up at Your Home
Any of the top Stamford Connecticut DCF attorneys will acknowledge that DCF investigators do not give you a heads up before they show up. They do this because DCF investigators believe they will get the truest picture of your family when they catch you by surprise. Be aware, however, that you are under no obligation to submit to the interview at that moment. Stay calm and politely ask them to reschedule their interview and home inspection for a more convenient time. They may give you reasons why it’s important to go forward at that very moment, but realize that you have the right to say no and reschedule.
Whether the Stamford Connecticut DCF investigator is conducting a FAR or a Full Investigation, ask the investigator to come back after you have had a chance to consult with a top Connecticut DCF lawyer. Do not be disarmed by their lack of police uniform and polite exchange – DCF workers are law enforcement officers. While they cannot arrest you, they can share anything they learn with the police. Stamford Connecticut DCF workers even have the power to take you to court to modify your parental rights. Always be polite and ask the investigator for a business card. Be sure to let them know you will be in contact once you speak to a top Stamford Connecticut DCF attorney lawyer. They may respond with some sort of threat that if you do not let them in, then they have the power to go to court to try to remove your children from your home. True, but having the power to go to court, and actually going to court are two different scenarios.
Don’t be intimidated. DCF will usually give you the time to speak with any of the best Stamford Connecticut DCF lawyers and attorneys, as Stamford DCF interviews can usually wait a few hours—or even a couple of days—until you are better prepared for your Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation home interview and assessment.
What Is a Family Assessment Response (“FAR”)?
A Family Assessment Response (or “FAR”) is a 45-day risk assessment conducted by a Connecticut DCF investigator. While a FAR investigation is similar to a Full Investigation in many ways, it does not end with any findings of abuse or neglect. The best Stamford Connecticut DCF lawyers and attorneys know that this is the most desirable DCF investigative track because it is the easiest to manage. However, a FAR is not a one-way ticket out of DCF – a wrong move, or too much information shared with DCF, can quickly escalate your FAR into a Full Investigation.
It is critical to understand that DCF can elevate your FAR case into a Full Investigation at their sole discretion, especially when Stamford Connecticut DCF thinks you are not fully cooperating or uncovers issues or concerns during the 45-day investigation such as a failed drug test, domestic violence history, or new information from interviews. That is why you should let your top Stamford Connecticut DCF attorney handle your Stamford DCF case from day one.
How Do I Prepare for a DCF Investigation?
The best Stamford Connecticut DCF law firms understand that a “Full Investigation” requires DCF to either substantiate or unsubstantiate the allegations of abuse or neglect at the conclusion of its 45-day investigation. Essentially, DCF declares you guilty or not guilty of abuse or neglect. But unlike criminal court, you have no due process rights during your Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation. You don’t get to present witnesses to DCF. You don’t get to confront, question, or cross-examine your accusers. You don’t even get to see the evidence being gathered by the Stamford Connecticut DCF investigator. If this sounds unfair to you, that’s because it is.
As the top Connecticut DCF lawyers and attorneys can explain, at the end of your Stamford Connecticut DCF Full Investigation, DCF closes your case and notifies you of their findings by certified mail. The written notice you receive in the mail will inform you of the following:
- Whether you are guilty of abuse or neglect
- Whether you continue to pose a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of your children; and
- Whether the findings should be published in DCF’s publicly available “Central Registry.”
DCF will also notify you if they are requiring you to comply with in-home services following the investigation. Failure to comply may force DCF to bring you to court.
Do I Need to Hire a Stamford DCF Investigation Lawyer?
Yes, 100 percent yes. This is a frequent question that the best Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation lawyers always get asked. If you can afford it, then you should hire a lawyer to help you and your family during a Stamford Department of Children and Families investigation.
DCF certainly won’t tell you that you have a right to an attorney. You are only formally advised of that right when you are at risk of being arrested by a police officer. But what if your kids are at risk of being taken away and put in foster care? It’s ironic—but despite tireless efforts by the best Connecticut DCF law firms, DCF refuses to advise investigation targets that they have the right to an attorney. This is because legal advocacy would level the playing field and makes DCF’s job more difficult.
Having any of the best Stamford Connecticut DCF attorneys by your side during a Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation often helps prevent the investigation from escalating, and also can send a message to DCF that they cannot take advantage of you and your family with veiled threats designed to instill fear that you may lose your children to foster care.
How to Communicate with Stamford Connecticut DCF Investigators
So how open should you be with DCF during an investigatory interview? Most people understandably believe that being as forthcoming and open as possible during a Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation will get your case closed quickly and with the best result. Just explain the situation and DCF will understand and go away, right? Wrong.
While no top Stamford Connecticut DCF attorney will ever tell you to lie to an investigator, it is important you keep in mind that anything you say can and will be used against you by DCF, and may even be disclosed to the Stamford Police Department. That means if you start revealing all of the past problems in your family or marriage such as anxiety, depression, addiction issues, domestic violence, or anything else that raises red flags, then the DCF investigator may keep your case open for months for monitoring, possible court intervention, and unnecessary counseling and drug testing.
Always remember you can decline to answer certain questions or consult with your top Stamford Connecticut DCF attorney lawyer before providing answers. To know your options and protect your rights, contact any of the best Stamford DCF investigation law firms before meeting with DCF.
Does DCF Have the Right to Talk to My Kids Without Me Present?
Yes. While DCF can insist that you not be in the room during their interview with your children, you should know that your top Stamford Connecticut DCF attorney can remain in the room with your child during the interview.
Every member of your family—no matter what age—is entitled to have a lawyer present. Your lawyer can even record the interview, take notes, and stop the interview if your child gets upset. DCF will then sometimes do an “end-around” and interview your child at their school. In these cases, you should explicitly instruct your child’s principal not to permit anyone to interview your kids without your Connecticut DCF attorney present.
How to Fight a DCF Investigation in Stamford Connecticut
One of the most effective ways to fight a Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation is to hire a top Stamford Connecticut DCF law firm to advocate for your family, shield you from intrusive DCF demands, and run interference with DCF investigators and their respective supervisors to have your case closed as quickly as possible. Experience and competence are essential in balancing DCF cooperation, protection, and advocacy. When you find that you and your family are facing a Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation, then it is worth the time and expense to consult with a top Stamford Connecticut DCF attorney to prepare yourself for your family’s DCF interview and home assessment.
Do Not Sign a DCF Safety Plan Without Consulting an Attorney
Another staple of Stamford Connecticut DCF investigators is their demand that you sign a “DCF Safety Plan” or “DCF Service Agreement” during their first visit. This is typically a pink or yellow handwritten sheet, listing rules and requirements that your family must follow or else DCF can take you to court. The best Stamford Connecticut DCF attorneys and lawyers will usually insist that you do not sign this document until it is reviewed and revised by an experienced Connecticut DCF attorney.
Connecticut DCF Safety Plans and Service Agreements are booby traps. They often contain conditions that are burdensome, heavy-handed, overbroad, and restrictive. Many times the conditions set you up to fail. Examples are DCF-mandated supervised visitation with your child, orders preventing you from returning home, substance abuse and alcohol evaluations, drug testing, parenting classes, and therapy. What is most irritating to the best DCF lawyers in Stamford, Connecticut and their clients is that the investigator will never explain the legal ramifications of signing the Safety Plan or advise you of your legal rights. Instead, they will tell you what can (not what will) happen if you refuse to sign a Safety Plan. When you hear that one of the worst-case (albeit unlikely) scenarios is that your children will be put in foster care…well, of course you’ll sign anything in front of you. It is coercion, plain and simple.
A top Stamford Connecticut DCF lawyer attorney can help you here. They can explain that signing a DCF Safety Plan or Service Plan is equivalent to giving up your constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial against DCF. So before you sign ANYTHING from DCF, be sure to let them know you need to first run it by your top Stamford Connecticut DCF Investigation lawyer.
Can I Appeal My Case If Connecticut DCF Substantiates Abuse or Neglect?
Absolutely. In fact, the appeals process for a Connecticut DCF substantiation is the most transparent part of DCF. As the best Connecticut DCF investigation lawyers can tell you, the clock to begin your appeal begins ticking as soon as you receive a letter notifying you that DCF has substantiated allegations of neglect (moral, physical, or emotional) or abuse. The same goes for appealing a DCF decision to publish its abuse or neglect findings on the public DCF Central Registry.
Your appeal will receive an internal review. After that, you have the option to take your appeal to a full-blown, contested hearing. This is like a criminal trial—you and your top Stamford DCF appeal attorney can subpoena witnesses, inspect medical records, police reports, DCF reports, and cross-examine the DCF investigator assigned to your case. This all takes place before an impartial hearing officer. Demanding a DCF appeal also sends a message to the prosecutor on any related criminal case that you are serious about fighting your accusations of child abuse or neglect.
Be sure to talk to your top Stamford Connecticut criminal lawyer about the consequences of taking the stand versus asserting your Fifth Amendment right during your appeal hearing.
Can I Get a Copy of My Stamford Connecticut DCF Investigation File?
Yes, but only after DCF has closed your case. Any of the top Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation attorneys can file the proper paperwork with the DCF legal department and obtain a complete copy of your file. This includes all police reports, interviews, witness statements, and summaries of evidence obtained during your investigation. These records can often be helpful to you in a parallel court proceeding (criminal, divorce, or otherwise) to clear your name – especially if a disgruntled spouse or family member has made false reports to DCF, which happens all the time. If you want a copy of your DCF file, then call a top Stamford DCF attorney lawyer today for assistance.
What Action Does DCF Take Following a Domestic Violence Arrest?
The best DCF law firms and lawyers in Stamford understand that many DCF cases start with a referral from the Stamford Police Department. Stamford police are required by law to refer an investigation to DCF when any domestic violence incident occurs near children under 18, even if the children were not involved in the dispute.
If you are arrested in Stamford for a domestic violence crime such as Disorderly Conduct, Risk of Injury, Assault, or Strangulation, you need to be careful about what you disclose to your DCF investigator because it might be used against you in Stamford criminal court. It is not common knowledge, but DCF investigators participate in a weekly meeting with domestic violence court staff where they all share information and safety concerns about your case with the prosecutor and family relations officers. When you are the target of a DCF investigation in Stamford Connecticut as a result of an arrest for a domestic violence incident, talk to any of the top DCF and criminal lawyers in Stamford Connecticut to protect your rights and your future.
What Happens After an Arrest for Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Car?
Under CGS 53-21, Stamford Police officers must refer you to DCF when they arrest you for Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle or Risk of Injury. The top Stamford Connecticut DCF criminal attorneys know that Stamford child in car arrests go hand in hand with DCF investigations due to how much the accusations overlap with child abuse and neglect concerns.
Don’t forget – leaving a child under 16 alone in a car is against the law in Connecticut – even if it’s just for a few minutes to run into a store. With dangerously high summer temperatures in Connecticut, hot car deaths in Connecticut are on everyone’s radar so make sure DCF does not substantiate abuse or neglect allegations against you.
Contact a Stamford Connecticut DCF Investigation Attorney Today
When you suddenly find yourself the target of a Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation, or you get an unexpected phone call or knock on your front door from Stamford DCF, contact any of the seasoned Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation lawyers at Mark Sherman Law. Our goals are to protect your reputation, your family’s privacy, and get your DCF closed as quickly as possible, with no substantiation findings from DCF.