Interacting With DCF in Connecticut
During a domestic violence arrest in Connecticut, the arresting police officers are required to follow certain strict protocols if children under 18 years old are present during the domestic dispute. If you are arrested for any domestic violence crime that occurred while your children were in the home, then expect the arresting police officers to make an immediate referral to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”).
Depending on the severity of the accusations made against you, a DCF investigator will be required to come to your home or contact you within 24-48 hours to conduct either a safety assessment or a full investigation of reported abuse or neglect. Do you have to speak with them? Do you have to let them into your home? What will happen if you don’t?
Make no mistake—while DCF investigators cannot arrest you and are not the police, they are still considered Connecticut law enforcement. DCF has the resources and legal authority to get a court order, which could detrimentally impact your visitation and custody rights with your children.
So when DCF shows up at your door after a domestic violence arrest, you should be fully versed in the DCF investigation process and understand the consequences of refusing to cooperate with the Connecticut DCF investigation.
When DCF Arrives After a Domestic Violence Arrest
Usually, DCF likes to make their first contact unannounced. They will show up at your front door, hoping to catch you off guard and unprepared for your visit so that they can get a very raw snapshot and assessment of your family life at home. You should politely ask them for their name, phone number, and ask them if you could schedule a mutually convenient time to get together. This will give you ample time to consult with a lawyer.
Expect immediate pushback from the DCF investigator who may try to convince you that you do not need a lawyer, or that if you don’t meet with them, then the following could happen…court orders that affect visitation, temporary custody, or your child’s removal from the home. Sure, this could happen, but it likely won’t. These are just threats.
DCF sometimes uses these strong arm tactics to persuade you to go forward with your evaluation and home inspection without first speaking to a lawyer. Be strong and ask them to come back another day. They are not legally allowed to hold this request against you. Click here to learn more about hiring an attorney to assist you with your Connecticut DCF investigation.
What to Understand
Whether you are the target of a Connecticut DCF “Full Investigation” or a Connecticut DCF “Family Assessment Response” or “FAR”, DCF will want to accomplish the following objectives: (1) conduct one-on-one interviews with everyone in the family home, including all of your minor children, (2) conduct a walk-through inspection of your home to assess whether your children are being properly cared for, and (3) speak with your children’s school, pediatrician, dentist and therapists.
After a domestic violence arrest in Connecticut which involves children, DCF is required by law to complete these tasks. Many times this can feel very invasive and humiliating to someone arrested, or even just involved as a victim, in connection with a Connecticut domestic violence arrest. However, working with DCF is usually not optional.
What Happens If I Don’t Cooperate with DCF
Obviously, if you are charged with a Connecticut domestic violence crime, you and your lawyer will have to discuss whether you want to make any statement to DCF regarding the domestic violence accusations, as anything you say to a DCF investigator can be used against you in your criminal case.
But remember, the consequences of failing to cooperate with a Connecticut DCF investigation can range from minor to severe, so perhaps you will choose to only discuss family issues unrelated to the crimes charged. In some cases, a DCF investigator who has not heard your side of the story can close your case and record a substantiation finding of abuse or neglect against you, and even publish the finding in the public DCF abuse registry.
In more serious cases, Connecticut DCF social workers will consult with DCF lawyers and seek court intervention to enter your home, remove your children, or speak with your children’s teachers to confirm their safety. Whether DCF will get aggressive with you and your family depends on the allegations, the investigator’s impressions, and the internal meetings that take place among DCF investigators, supervisors, staff attorneys and the police.
One last issue that regularly comes up with DCF investigations that stem from Connecticut domestic violence arrests is whether you should sign any DCF paperwork, especially a yellow hand-written form called a “DCF Service Agreement / Safety Plan.” While well-intentioned and meant to protect everyone in your home, the problem with DCF Service Agreements / Safety Plans is that they are binding contracts and automatically give DCF an expedited remedy process if you violate or breach the Service Agreement / Safety Plan, or if you just decide that you don’t want to follow the Service Agreement / Safety Plan and don’t want DCF in your life anymore.
The trouble is, however, that by signing a DCF Service Agreement / Safety Plan, you have given up some very important rights, leaving DCF with much more legal leverage over you and your family. Don’t sign any DCF document until a Connecticut DCF lawyer has reviewed, negotiated and approved the specific terms and conditions of your Connecticut DCF Service Agreement / Safety Plan.