Dealing With DCF After a Domestic Violence Arrest
Many people arrested for a domestic violence offense have never been arrested before. Having to go to court and deal with a criminal allegation is stressful. An unintended result of any domestic violence arrest when minor children are involved is often a DCF investigation. Many of our clients report lots of anxiety when dealing with DCF. Clients feel that their parenting skills are under attack, and it makes people feel very defensive. Wondering if this is going to result in "losing" your children often makes our clients lose sleep. The good news is that in the vast majority of cases, DCF interactions end without any adverse consequences. Sometimes it can be helpful to speak with a domestic violence lawyer about the DCF process so you can know what to expect.Mandatory DCF Reporting
The Department of Children and Families or "DCF" is charged with investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect in the State of Connecticut. The legislature has required mandated reporters (such as police officers, school teachers, and doctors) to report any observations of suspected child abuse or neglect to DCF pursuant to C.G.S. § 17a-101a. When a domestic violence arrest is made, and a minor child is present at the time, either in the home of in close proximity, the police are required to make a report to DCF. Sometimes, the police will charge you with the crime of risk of injury to a minor for having an argument while your children are present in the family home. Risk of injury to a minor is a serious felony, and you have to take this kind of allegation very seriously.DCF Initial Contact
In most instances, a DCF caseworker will show up unannounced at your home the next business day after your domestic violence arrest. The initial contact sometimes is initiated by a preliminary phone call. Pursuant to DCF policy, the home visit must take place no later than 72 hours after the initial report of suspected abuse. Their purpose is to catch you by surprise, unprepared, and see what kind of living conditions exist in your home. Also, DCF's standard procedure is to request to separate your children in another room away from you and see if they provide differing accounts of the incident and any information about other suspected abuse.
It is essential to understand that everything that you say about the incident to DCF can be used against you. The best approach, when confronted with one of these unannounced DCF visits, is to politely tell the caseworker that you need to speak with your attorney before you proceed with the interview. You do not have to talk to DCF without an attorney present. Requesting some time to talk to an attorney before the DCF interview will give you an opportunity to organize your thoughts and get prepared.
The ultimate objective of the initial screening is to determine what level of response DCF will take in your situation. In most cases, DCF will conduct a Family Assessment Response or "FAR" which is the least intrusive level of service.Family Assessment Response
A "FAR" by DCF can often be a painless process and end without any adverse consequences. In some cases, DCF involvement can spiral out of control and become overly intrusive and burdensome. It is essential to realize that all of your cooperation with DCF is voluntary, and it is usually in your best interest to cooperate fully with DCF.
The next step in the FAR process is usually following up with your child's teachers, pediatrician, and daycare provider. In some cases, DCF has been known to interview our client's family members and neighbors. During this stage, the DCF caseworker will often schedule weekly family visits, which can go on for a significant period of time. The caseworker's purpose is to attempt to assign resources to the family to help resolve whatever issues that lead to the domestic violence incident. Often, therapy sessions, substance abuse counseling, and parenting education are suggested.
If, at any time, you feel like the DCF caseworker is getting overly confrontational, intrusive, and invasive, it may be a good idea to speak with an experienced Connecticut domestic violence lawyer to explore your options to push back. It is essential to weigh all the specific facts of your case and the circumstances of your arrest carefully when deciding on how to respond to DCF.Service Plans
In some instances, the family relations officer will want to get you to enter into a service plan formally known as the "Family Assessment Response Service Plan." The agreement forms state that these agreements are mutually developed and agreed to by the family and the DCF caseworker.
However, in reality, in most cases, the service plan is a list of demands that the caseworker is requesting that you comply with to avoid a more intrusive investigation and the possibility of removal litigation. It is recommended that you review the service plan with an experienced domestic violence defense attorney before you sign anything. The relationship with your DCF caseworker is coercive, and in some situations, you need to hire an attorney to push back against unreasonable and overly intrusive demands that are not in the best interest of your children.Full DCF Investigations
In many situations, DCF elects to initiate a formal investigation of child abuse or neglect. The purpose of the inquiry is to determine if DCF should substantiate abuse or neglect of the child. DCF regulations require that the investigation must be completed within 45 days. During this process, you are unable to defend yourself by presenting witnesses and evidence to refute the allegations against you. DCF conducts the investigation and makes the determination. Regardless of the decision, you have the right to appeal the decision. During an appeal, your attorney can call witnesses, present evidence on your behalf, and present your side of the story more effectively before an impartial judge.Contact a Connecticut Domestic Violence Attorney Today
Many clients do not feel the need to retain an attorney to assist them in a DCF investigation. DCF caseworkers start with a casual approach, and they seem very informal at first. The problem is that these investigations have the possibility of spiraling into more invasive and intrusive intrusions. A DCF investigation can quickly escalate in severity, and you can find yourself overwhelmed.
If you are the subject of a DCF investigation, it is always helpful to review the circumstances of your case with a Connecticut domestic violence lawyer to evaluate the best alternatives to managing the situation. The best approach is to contain the DCF investigation at the outset to minimize its effect on your life and prevent it from expanding into a more serious matter. Call Attorney Friedman at (203) 357-5555 to schedule your free initial consultation and case evaluation - we are available 24/7. Or you can contact them online for a prompt response.