Process of a DCF Investigation in Westport
Are you under investigation by the Department of Children and Families? A top defense attorney can help defend you during the process of a DCF investigation in Westport.
How do Westport DCF Investigations Begin?
Under state law, DCF officials must investigate complaints of child abuse or neglect within 48 hours of receiving them. In many cases, reports originate with teachers, doctors, psychologists, and other individuals who are required to report suspected abuse under the law (known as mandated reporters). DCF may also initiate an investigation if children are present during an alleged domestic violence incident.
What Happens During an Investigation?
Investigations typically include unannounced visits to the household for inspection purposes and to interview the parents or caretakers, children, and other household members. Investigators may also talk to other individuals who have regular contact with the children, such as teachers and childcare providers. When investigators interview children, they try to do so away from parents or guardians to help ensure that the children speak freely.
What is a Substantiation Finding?
After completing an investigation in Westport, DCF officials then decide whether the abuse or neglect is substantiated or unsubstantiated. A substantiated report will result in further action against the family. DCF may recommend services such as drug or alcohol treatment, parenting classes, or counseling. In some cases, DCF may even recommend a child be removed from the home. The agency will issue a notification of substantiation to the family, which contains the following information:
- A brief description of the allegations in the report
- Notification of placement on the abuse and neglect registry
- Consequences of placement on the abuse and neglect registry
- Options for requesting a review through an administrative hearing
- A form for requesting an appeal of the decision within 30 days
Can I Appeal a Substantiation Finding?
Yes. Upon a request for appeal, the substantiation finding goes to DCF for an automatic internal review. If the internal review results in substantiation, then the matter is scheduled for an administrative hearing. At these hearings, DCF must prove that it had “probable cause” to substantiate abuse or neglect against the parents or guardians.
Probable cause is a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is used in criminal cases. For this reason, Westport families often choose to retain an attorney for help countering DCF’s findings. A successful challenge to the substantiation finding can lead to the removal of their names from the abuse and neglect registry.
Let an Attorney Guide You Through the Westport DCF Investigation Process
The prospect of DCF placing your child in foster care or taking other steps to divide your family can feel overwhelming. As a result, you should be aware of your legal rights during the process of a DCF investigation in Westport and take all steps necessary to protect your interests. Contact Mark Sherman Law to learn more about how an attorney could help your family.