Appealing Connecticut DCF Substantiation Findings
A Connecticut DCF investigation of you and your family can have a long-lasting emotional and psychological impact on your family. These investigations into allegations of abuse or neglect often take the form of two tracks: a low-risk track called a Family Assessment Response (a “FAR”), or the more serious investigative track called a “Full Investigation,” where a DCF investigator either substantiates or unsubstantiated / rejects the abuse or neglect allegations.
While this article focuses primarily on hiring a legal professional to assist you with your Connecticut DCF Appeal, follow this link to learn more about fighting DCF Investigations in Connecticut.
Starting An Appeal
It does not take much proof or evidence for Connecticut DCF to substantiate an allegation of abuse or neglect. In sharp contrast to the constitutionally-driven rules of fairness and equity in a courtroom, DCF investigators are free to rely on any evidence, hearsay, speculation, and rumors to support their substantiation of a case of physical or emotional abuse or neglect against you.
Because of the looseness and informality of these investigations, you and attorney must be aggressive in defending yourself against false and trumped up accusations of child abuse and neglect.
In addition to substantiating the allegations, Connecticut DCF is required to make two other findings:
1) to determine whether you pose a continued risk of abuse or neglect to the child involved in the DCF investigation, and
2) whether the substantiation finding of abuse or neglect should be recorded in the Connecticut DCF Central Registry, available for viewing by the public.
These two determinations, along with the underlying substantiation of abuse or neglect, can be devastating to your professional and personal reputations, especially if you work in a profession that requires contact with children, or if you plan on coaching or volunteering for your child’s sports teams or community service groups.
Fortunately, Connecticut DCF law provides for a two-tiered appeal process, that somewhat levels the playing field for fairness, allowing you and your attorney to present evidence, review your DCF file, and call witnesses to the stand before an impartial hearing officer.
So if Connecticut DCF has substantiated allegations of abuse and neglect against you, then you should contact a legal professional to preserve your appeal rights and begin reversing the unfair and unjust DCF decision against you.
What To Do Once You Receive a Notification of Investigation Results Form
The appeal clock begins ticking when you receive the Notification of Investigation Results – Substantiated Form in the mail (known as DCF Form 2210a). If you receive a notice that the allegations and accusations were unsubstantiated, then your case is closed and you do not have any right to appeal (although you can contact an attorney to learn how to obtain a full copy of the DCF investigator’s notes and interviews, a particularly helpful tool in messy divorce proceedings).
You have 30 days from the date you receive the DCF Notification of Investigation Results Form to file your DCF appeal. Along with the DCF Notification of Substantiation Findings, DCF will provide you with an appeal request form (DCF Form 2210b).
Check the box on this form which indicates you would like to appeal and mail it back to DCF at the designated address on the Form 2210b. DCF first conducts an internal review of the Investigation results, and will decide on its own whether the Connecticut DCF Substantiation Findings should be reversed. If they affirm the decision, then you and your dedicated lawyer can request an appeal hearing.
The DCF Appeals Hearing
Prior to the DCF Appeal hearing, your DCF Appeal lawyer may be able to negotiate a settlement of your appeal case prior to commencement of hearing. If it cannot be settled, then the hearing usually takes place in a conference room at your local Connecticut DCF office.
The DCF Appeal Hearing is similar to a criminal court case. DCF is represented by its own in-house attorneys. You can represent yourself or you can be represented by an attorney. DCF presents its evidence first, as they have the burden of proof to prove whether there was probable cause for DCF to substantiate the accusations of physical or emotional abuse or neglect against you.
“Probable cause” is a very low standard of proof, not to be confused with the very discerning standard of proof in criminal cases which requires that guilt and criminal liability be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The most important witness for your attorney to cross-examine is the lead DCF Investigator on your case. They should be challenged on the accuracy of their DCF reports, the thoroughness of their investigation, and their reliance on hearsay versus direct evidence.
As for other witnesses, it is sometimes helpful to compel witnesses such as therapists, pediatricians, school psychologists, guidance counselors, and police officers to testify at the Connecticut DCF appeal hearing.
For all of these reasons, if Connecticut DCF allegations have been substantiated against you, you should definitely consider calling a seasoned lawyer to discuss your appeal options and chances of success.
Contact a Lawyer f0r Help with Appealing Connecticut DCF Substantiation Findings
If you have been the target of a DCF investigation in Connecticut, and have had allegations of physical or emotional abuse and neglect substantiated against you, then consider contacting a DCF Appeal Lawyer at The Connecticut Domestic Violence Information Center today.
We are ready to take DCF to task on its substantiation findings. Too often we see DCF investigators run roughshod over Connecticut residents, without DCF adequately informing them of their rights and options.