I think it’s safe to say that we can all agree that when DCF (The Department of Children and Families) comes to your door, it’s intimidating. Whether you know they’re coming, it’s an unannounced visit, or you genuinely have no clue as to why they are there, DCF doesn’t just pop in for no reason (well, usually). So, for a parent faced with DCF involvement for the first time, it’s important to know your rights. My next few blog posts are going to focus on those rights that apply in the moments after DCF shows up at your door, and how you can exercise those rights to their fullest without “making yourself look bad.” For now, I want to give an overview – a roadmap if you will – of the rights I am talking about.
When DCF first comes to your door, the DCF worker should to provide you with a packet listing your rights before they even enter your home. They will ask you to read it, sign it, and talk to them. They want to gain access to your home. But here’s the kicker—you don’t have to do any of those things if you don’t want to. It is easy to feel intimidated and to simply do as they ask. But here is a list of the most important rights that will be in that packet:
• You aren’t required to let DCF into your home; and
• You aren’t required to talk to them; and
o NOTE: If you choose not to talk to DCF, they say that it can have consequences, including DCF filing a petition to take your child away. Therefore, they advise you to either talk to the DCF employee (which you have the right not to do), or seek immediate advice from an attorney. But again, I will get into this issue in a later post.
• You have the right to talk to an attorney and have an attorney present whenever DCF wants to talk to you; and
• You aren’t required to sign any document that DCF gives you and you’re entitled to have an attorney review the document before signing it.
These are the basic rights every parent should be aware of while dealing with DCF. For now, I just wanted to lay out the basics. My next few posts will be about each of these rights individually, and some advice on how to best exercise those rights should you need to do so.
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.