When you receive an unexpected call or a letter from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) it can be overwhelming and downright scary. You’ve heard the horror stories of children being removed from their parent’s custody and sent into the foster care system. Before you panic, educate yourself as to what your rights are and advocate for yourself and your family as you navigate any scenario with DCF.
If a 51A has been filed against you and then screened in by the DCF an investigation will take place to determine whether or not the allegations against you should be (1) unsupported; (2) have a substantiated concern or (3) supported. The allegations filed against an individual can be either neglect, physical abuse or sexual. abuse. If charges have been filed against a daycare or daycare provider there could also be institutional abuse allegations. You should receive written correspondence from the DCF with respect to the allegations against you that are being investigated.
Upon completion of the investigation, the DCF will complete what’s called a 51B Report which is the investigation itself. The 51B report will conclude whether or not any allegations will be supported and whether or not a case will be opened for services. You should receive correspondence from DCF with the results of the investigation.
Sadly, and far too often, allegations are supported which contradict the policies and regulations of the DCF. As a result of this, you have the ability to appeal the allegations against you. This is through the Fair Hearing process. You have a right to have counsel represent you during all aspects of DCF’s involvement with your family–from investigation to the Fair Hearing. The Fair Hearing itself is an administrative review and appeal of the DCF’s decision against you. As such, if you are not satisfied after your Fair Hearing, you do have the option to appeal the decision to Superior Court. Keep in mind, that the burden for you is not just you disagree with what has been decided. One of our attorneys can review the requirements for you and your family at each stage in the process.
We are here to help you during the course of the investigation. We are also here to support you when DCF opens a case for services with your family. We handle Fair Hearings and Superior Court appeals pertaining to DCF outcomes.
DCF matters are often complex. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation with Sladen & Costigan.