If you’re being investigated by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), you’re probably wondering if you need a lawyer. While many calls to DCF see no action taken, some may result in serious changes to your family’s current situation. Hiring a family law attorney can help protect you and your parental rights. Here’s what you need to know about dealing with the DCF.
What is the DCF?
The Department of Children and Families, or DCF, is a state government agency responsible for protecting children and helping troubled families. In cases of abuse and neglect, the DCF investigates any calls or reports that a child may be at risk. An investigation may go to court to try to remove a child from their home if they conclude that the child is in a harmful environment. The DCF also provides support services for families who are in turmoil, places children in foster care and arranges adoptions.
Being Investigated by the DCF
The DCF begins an investigation when they receive a report of abuse, neglect or abandonment. These reports are often filed by teachers, caregivers, neighbors, healthcare providers or ex-spouses. The DCF will determine if they have enough evidence available to seek the child’s removal from the home.
Being investigated by the Department of Children and Families is not a criminal prosecution. No bail will be set and no prison sentence is ordered. But it is a serious matter— it could result in you losing parental rights. That’s why it’s important to know that you have the right to have a family law attorney present at all proceedings.
What Happens During an Investigation?
A DCF investigation will begin within 24 hours of an emergency situation and within 10 days if it’s not an emergency. In a non-emergency situation, the first step of the investigation will be a visit from a social worker. He or she will discuss the allegations of the report with you. They’ll also want to see the child or children in the home and may examine your home. Any information you give may be used in court. You have the right to have your family law attorney present for this visit.
Could I Lose My Child?
The thought of losing custody of your child is a parent’s worst fear. While most investigations don’t come to this, if deemed an emergency, the DCF could ask the judge to have your child removed from the home without your prior notification. If this occurs, you should contact your DCF office immediately to find out when they plan to go to court. You should attend this hearing with your family law attorney if you have one. You have the right to a hearing within 72 hours, and if you are low income you may seek a court-appointed attorney.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
Dependency cases are extremely stressful and emotional. Don’t go through them without an experienced attorney at your side. Parker & DuFresne can help if you’re facing a DCF investigation or have already lost custody of your child. Our family law attorneys can represent you against allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Call us for more information at (904) 733-7766.