DCF Investigations/ Juvenile Law
It can be a scary situation when DCF knocks on your door. There is some basic information that everyone should know about DCF and how to handle an investigation. If DCF becomes involved with your family, it means that someone made a call to the DCF careline and reported concerns that they had about abuse or neglect in the family. The reporter has the right to remain anonymous.
DCF involvement will follow one of two different tracks.
Family Assessment Response
A case can be assigned as a Family Assessment Response (FAR) or it can be assigned as an Investigation. During the course of a FAR, the DCF worker is tasked with identifying issues in the family and referring the family out to different resources that may help to alleviate any concerns. These resources can include, family therapy, individual therapy, educational resources, in-home services, parenting classes and the like. A FAR case does not result in any findings by DCF of abuse or neglect. It is merely an avenue for families to get help.
A DCF Investigation is a very different type of involvement. If the case is assigned as an investigation, the DCF worker typically has 45 days to look into the allegations of abuse or neglect being made and either substantiate or unsubstantiated those allegations. It is possible that the investigation is extended beyond the 45 days. DCF will speak with you, speak with your children and will ask you to sign authorizations so they can speak with necessary collateral contacts in order to gather information. These contacts may include your child’s school, your child’s medical and therapy providers, as well as your medical and therapy providers. You have the right to have a third party present with you whenever you are speaking with a DCF worker.
At the end of the investigation, DCF will either “substantiate” or “un-substantiate” the allegations against you. If they un-substantiate, that means they did not find enough evidence to support the allegations. DCF will then close out their case. However, they can keep the case open to provide the family with additional support and resources for a period of time even if they unsubstantiated the allegations. If DCF substantiates, this means that they did find enough evidence of abuse or neglect and will keep the case open and request that you cooperate with treatment or other resources that they suggest. If the allegations are severe, or you do not cooperate with DCFs resources, then DCF can file an abuse or neglect petition with the Juvenile Court.
Juvenile Court Involvement
If DCF finds strong evidence to support allegations of abuse or neglect, they can file a court case against you in Juvenile Court. If you are served with an abuse or neglect petition, you should contact an attorney immediately to discuss your rights. If DCF believes that the child is in imminent risk of harm, they can file for an Order of Temporary Custody along with the petition. This means that DCF is asking the court to remove your child from your home. This is a very serious matter that should be handled by an attorney who has experience in the Juvenile Courts.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, reach out to one of our attorneys at BPS who has experience with the DCF and Juvenile Court process.