DCF Investigations Following a Connecticut Risk of Injury Arrest
Arrests for Risk of Injury to a Minor Child in Connecticut frequently go hand-in-hand with Connecticut domestic violence arrests. The two most common scenarios of DCF Investigations with Risk of Injury arrests are: 1) when there are children under 16 in the vicinity of the domestic dispute, and 2) when you are arrested in Connecticut for child abuse or excessive physical discipline and corporal punishment.
Investigators from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (also known as “DCF”) are required by law to conduct a 45-day investigation of you and your kids whenever there is an arrest for Risk of Injury to a Minor under CGS 53-21, even if the minor children were not at risk of any kind of harm during the domestic violence incident.
This protracted DCF investigation can be cumbersome, burdensome, unnecessary, and extremely disruptive and upsetting to you and your children’s lives, often creating more stress and anxiety for your family than the underlying Connecticut domestic violence arrest itself. So if you have been arrested in Connecticut for Risk of Injury and need to fight your parallel Connecticut DCF investigation, keep reading to learn more about your rights and how to get DCF out of your life as quickly as possible.
Why is DCF Coming to My House?
Connecticut Risk of Injury arrests typically occur whenever police believe that a child under 16 has been put at risk of physical, psychological or emotional harm. It is a very broad criminal statute and is charged very liberally by police officers. While you can click here to learn more about fighting Connecticut Risk of Injury arrests, you should understand that a Risk of Injury arrest must be challenged in Connecticut Superior Court, and is separate from the DCF investigation, where DCF will conduct a minimum 45-day investigation and then issue a decision to you by mail.
Whenever children under 16 are witness to or in the vicinity of a domestic violence arrest, then the parents can get arrested in Connecticut for Risk of Injury to a Minor. Connecticut DCF Investigation lawyers know that police officers, as well as Connecticut Superior Court family relations domestic violence court officers, are DCF “mandated reporters.” This means that these officers are required by law to report your Risk of Injury arrest to DCF, which is then obligated to open an investigation.
Once an investigation is opened, DCF investigators must contact you within a few business days, or in serious cases, within 12 hours. They do not call you; rather, expect them to show up unannounced at your front door. They will want to interview everyone in your family individually and conduct a home inspection. Know, however, that you have rights and can tell them to come back on another date and time after you have had a chance to consult with an attorney.
Connecticut DCF Service Agreement
If you are not being assisted by a DCF attorney, then another difficult decision is whether you should cooperate with a DCF investigation that accompanies your Connecticut Risk of Injury arrest . Often the Superior Court judge who is overseeing your Risk of Injury arrest will order you to cooperate with DCF as a condition of your release.
However, DCF “cooperation” can sometimes be a seemingly bottomless pit of home visits, release forms, and counseling sessions that you may not have had to agree to in the first place if you had just hired a Connecticut DCF lawyer in the first place.
Having DCF come to your door can be a big surprise and when the DCF investigator explains the rights and powers of their agency, your first inclination is to just agree to whatever they recommend. At your first home visit, the DCF investigator may ask you sign a “DCF Service Agreement”—also called a “DCF Safety Plan.” This is a contract between you and DCF, which appears well-intentioned, as it often assists you and your family in receiving important services and resources from the State of Connecticut.
It also, however, is a devastating concession and forfeiture of many of your legal rights with DCF and once signed, DCF has your back against the wall. That’s because if you fail to comply with any of the conditions of the DCF Service Agreement / Safety Plan, DCF can much more easily take you to court and start materially interfering with your custody rights. So be sure to contact a top lawyer prior to signing a DCF Service Agreement or Safety Plan.
Appealing Finding of Abuse or Neglect
Finally, at the conclusion of your DCF investigation for your Connecticut Risk of Injury arrest, the DCF investigator will send you a formal case closing letter where they will either substantiate or unsubstantiate the accusations of abuse or neglect made against you. If the allegations are substantiated, then they will also make a finding as to whether your case should be published in the public DCF registry.
If you disagree with the Connecticut DCF investigation results, know that you can appeal the decision in a much more formal setting—where you can call witnesses and get to present your case in front of an independent hearing officer. Many people in Connecticut challenge their DCF substantiation findings with the assistance of a DCF appeal lawyer and get their cases reversed.