It can be a scary time when an investigator from the Department of Children and Families shows up at your home unannounced. Many times, this situation comes as a complete surprise, and parents are unaware of how best to proceed. Here are a few tips for handling an investigation by DCF.
1. There are two types of DCF investigations: A Family Assessment Response or “FAR” case is different from an investigation of abuse or neglect. Typically, if a DCF report details the need for services, the case will be accepted as a FAR. DCF will speak with you, speak with your children, and identify the appropriate mental health, or other necessary services, that could assist your family. The outcome of a FAR is not a substantiation or an un-substantiation, only a referral for services. However, it is important to remain diligent because DCF can convert a FAR into an investigation if they believe the information they have warrants it.
An investigation of abuse or neglect is more serious, as the outcome could be a substantiation of abuse or neglect and a potential placement on the child abuse registry. DCF will be looking into every aspect of your life. They want to determine if the allegations against you are true and if so, they need to determine if the children can safely remain in your home. If DCF believes that the situation in your home is not appropriate for the children to remain, they can invoke court intervention and possibly remove the children from your home.
2. You do not have to meet with the investigator alone: If an investigator comes to your home, you do not have to meet with them alone, especially if you know that the allegations against you are serious. Nothing you say to DCF is confidential. Anything you say to a DCF worker can be used against you in court documents, court proceedings, DCF records or police investigations. It is acceptable to ask the worker to come back at another time when you can have an attorney present. Contact an attorney who has experience handling these cases immediately.
3. You do not have to let your children be interviewed alone: DCF will want to interview your children. DCF investigators are supposed to be trained in the art of interviewing children, however some do not handle child interviews well. The investigator may not allow you to be present while they conduct the interview. They do not want the child to be influenced in any way by having a parent present. However, you can ask that your attorney be present for the interview. Your attorney can stop the interview if it becomes inappropriate or if the investigator is asking leading questions.
4. It is important to cooperate, but not be taken advantage of: While most of the time DCF is looking to help your family, an investigation can quickly get out of hand. DCF may ask you to sign releases allowing them to speak with you and your children’s therapists, doctors, and schools. It is important to retain an attorney so that they can be the liaison between you and DCF. Your attorney will assess the seriousness of the allegations and tell you what documents are appropriate to sign and what DCF requests are overreaching and unnecessary.
Our attorneys at Brown, Paindiris & Scott are experienced in handling DCF investigations and any subsequent juvenile court involvement. We can assist you in navigating the DCF process and can be there to lend support during this trying time.