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Q&A for DCF investigation

Q & A for Parents about Protective Services

Why is a DCF Social Worker contacting me?

A social worker is contacting you because the Department
received a report that your child may have been abused or
neglected, or may be at risk of being abused. State law
(Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 17a-101) requires DCF
to investigate all reports of suspected child abuse or
neglect. The social worker will want to talk to you about
the report and your child’s well-being.
Who reported my child as abused or
neglected?
Anyone – a friend, neighbor, family member, or stranger –
can make a report of suspected abuse or neglect. Any
reporter may remain anonymous. However, the reporter’s
identity may be disclosed under certain limited
circumstances. Some professionals are required by law to
report suspected abuse or neglect and are called
“mandated reporters.” Mandated reporters include
teachers, physicians, nurses, social workers, police officers,
mental health counselors, clergy, daycare workers, and
other professionals.
Why would a report be made?
Children are reported for a variety of reasons. Mandated
reporters, for example, must contact the Department if they
suspect a child:
• has been neglected, which means the child has been
abandoned, is being denied proper care and attention,
or is being permitted to live under circumstances
which harm his or her well-being;
• has non-accidental physical injuries;
• has physical injuries that are inconsistent with an
explanation of the injuries;
• has a condition resulting from maltreatment, such as
malnutrition, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation,
deprivation of necessities like food, clothing, shelter,
and emotional maltreatment or cruel punishment; and
• is placed at imminent risk of serious harm.
Children have a right to be safe
from these conditions.
What happens when DCF receives a
report regarding my child?
Each accepted report of suspected abuse or neglect is
assigned to a social worker who is responsible for
conducting an investigation. It is the social worker’s
responsibility to investigate the report and determine if
ongoing DCF involvement is required.
Who will the social worker talk to?
First and foremost, the social worker will talk to you, your
child(ren), and other family members. It is important to
hear from you so the Department can offer help, if needed,
to your family. The social worker will contact physicians,
teachers, daycare staff, baby-sitters, neighbors, relatives, or
other people who have first-hand knowledge of you and
your child(ren). You may also suggest others who you feel
have information concerning your child. In certain
situations, the worker may contact people without the
parent’s consent. The police must be contacted if the
report indicates sexual abuse or serious physical abuse or
neglect.
Does the social worker have to talk to my
child?
Yes. The social worker must see and talk with your child,
and will need to see and talk with other children in the
home. In certain circumstances, the social worker may talk
with your child before contacting you. He or she may talk
with your child at school or at daycare.
What if I don’t want to talk to the social worker?
DCF encourages parents to cooperate with an investigation.
This provides parents with the opportunity to tell their
story. You can choose not to speak with the social worker,
but the Department is still required by law to investigate
the report. If DCF believes your child is in immediate
danger of serious harm, we will contact the police and, if
necessary, file a petition with the court to see your child.
Will my children be taken away from me?
The great majority of children served by DCF remain at
home with their parents. DCF’s goal is to keep families
together whenever possible. When support services are
needed, your social worker will help arrange them.
There are times when it is determined that the risk to a
child’s safety requires out-of-home placement. DCF may
authorize a child’s removal if there is probable cause to
believe that the child is at imminent risk of physical harm
and that immediate removal is necessary to ensure the
child’s safety. An emergency administrative removal is
called a 96-hour hold. The parent should receive in writing
the reason for the Department’s actions and the legal basis
for the removal. Within 96 hours after such removal, the
Department must seek an Order of Temporary Custody
(OTC) from the Court if it is necessary to maintain the child
in out-of-home placement. If that is the case, you will be
entitled to a Court hearing within 10 days and have the
right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the
court will appoint one for you. Your child(ren) will be
represented by an attorney as well.
When a child must be placed in out-of-home care, DCF’s
goal is his or her safe return as soon as the family situation
is determined to be stable and safe.
What happens after an investigation?
If DCF finds that your child has not been abused or
neglected, the report is “unsubstantiated.” This means that
there is insufficient evidence to prove that your child was,
in fact, abused or neglected. Many “unsubstantiated” cases
are immediately closed. However, DCF may determine that
there are risk factors present that warrant keeping the case
open to provide services to you and your family.
If DCF finds that your child has been abused or neglected,
the report is “substantiated,” and your case will most likely
remain open with DCF for services. Your social worker will
then work with you to develop what’s called a case plan.
The social worker will discuss the services you can receive
and how DCF will work with you to improve your family’s
situation.
If a child has been seriously abused or neglected, or
sexually abused, DCF is required to refer the case to the
police. At times, DCF’s involvement begins after a call from
a police department to help investigate a situation involving
children.
Can I disagree with the Department’s finding?
Yes. If at any time you disagree with a finding of
substantiated abuse or neglect, you may:
• Request in writing a review of the finding addressed to
the area director. If you disagree with the results of
the review, you can request an administrative hearing.
• You are not required by law to talk to the social
worker during the investigation. But if you choose not
to say anything, the hearing officer may not be able to
consider your side of the story at the administrative
hearing

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