By Attorney Sarah W. Lemay
Do you HAVE to talk to DCF?
In my last post, I talked generally about your rights as a parent if DCF comes to your door. In this week’s post I want to talk more specifically about your right NOT to talk to DCF in such a situation. As I mentioned last week, the DCF worker who comes to your door should provide you with a pamphlet that outlines your rights. This pamphlet states, “you are not required to speak with a DCF employee,” while also stating the following:
Please be advised that choosing not to communicate with a DCF employee may have serious consequences, which may include DCF filing a petition to remove your child from your home. It is, therefore, in your best interests to either speak with the DCF employee or immediately seek the advice of an attorney.
This pamphlet tells you that you don’t have to talk to them, but if you don’t you could cause yourself more trouble. Essentially, this pamphlet wraps up your right not to speak with them by inserting a scare tactic.
If this should happen to you, don’t let this scare tactic, well, scare you. Because even though what they really want is to scare you into talking to them, what you need to do is exercise your right to an attorney! They put it right there at the end of the “scary paragraph.” So in order to put your minds at ease, and remind you that if you don’t want to talk to DCF if you don’t want to, I’ve taken the liberty of rephrasing the wording on DCF’s pamphlet. Here we go:
Please be advised that choosing not to communicate with a DCF employee is your right as a parent. If you feel uncomfortable or uncertain about talking with a DCF employee on your own, you are encouraged to contact an attorney immediately who can help you navigate this process. If you feel comfortable talking with the DCF employee, it is your right to do so. Also know that if you choose to talk with a DCF employee, you still have the right to consult an attorney at any time throughout this process.
Please be aware that not talking to a DCF employee may have serious consequences if your choice not to talk to a DCF employee is an attempt to avoid dealing with DCF altogether. Such consequences may include DCF filing a petition to remove your child from your home, though there is no guarantee that such a petition will be granted by a judge. It is, therefore, in your best interests to either immediately seek the advice of an attorney, or to speak with the DCF employee if you feel comfortable doing so.
Wordy, I know, but also a lot less scary, right? The point here is that if you don’t want to talk to DCF because you want to talk to an attorney, that’s ok. DCF may not like it, but that is your right. Sure, if you simply don’t want to talk to them because you’re annoyed they’re there, or you don’t think they should be there, or you just want them to go away, that won’t do you any good.
Here’s the thing – DCF isn’t going away, so if you don’t feel comfortable talking with them, find an attorney. You’re going to have to go through some version of the DCF process once it’s started, so exercise your rights and do it the right way. Because doing it the wrong way isn’t going to help your case – at all.
Sarah W. Lemay is an attorney in Glastonbury, CT.
To contact Attorney Lemay, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at (860) 633-3651.