How a DCF Investigation starts
Most DCF investigations in Connecticut begin when a complaint or allegation is made to DCF through its 24-hour careline (hotline). These complains and allegations are called "referrals" by DCF, but make no mistake - they are allegations against you and your family. Once an allegation is made to the hotline, a DCF investigative social worker will begin to investigate the allegations. This will always occur within 72 hours of the allegation, but depending on the severity of the allegation, the investigation may begin immediately.
After DCF assigns an investigative social worker, that person will attempt to make contact with everyone that is named in the complaint. Contact may be made by visiting you or your family, at home or at school, or by calling you or another family member to set up a meeting. This initial contact is very important. In many cases, you will not know what the allegation is that DCF is investigating, and the investigative social worker will not want to tell you. Talking to DCF without an experienced Connecticut lawyer means that the conversation will be almost entirely on DCF's terms. That means DCF will not tell you what the investigation is about until they are ready to do so. A Connecticut lawyer that is familiar with DCF will not let you speak to the investigative social worker until the nature of the complaint or allegation is determined and you have had a chance to discuss it with him or her. Knowing the "why" of the investigation is the first step in determining whether to speak with DCF at all, and if so, on what terms.
Since DCF approaches these investigations with the upper hand when the family does not have a lawyer, investigative social workers will frequently tell the people being investigated that "it's all routine," "it's not a big deal," and that they "have to ask" because their supervisor or the agency itself requires it. They may even make you feel like you only need a lawyer if you know you've done something wrong. DCF has an extensive training program for its investigators, and they are good at their job. So don't be fooled! Take the investigation seriously from the beginning. Know your rights. Use your rights. Tell DCF that you will not speak with them until after discussing the matter with a lawyer. That's it. Be polite and be courteous, but also be firm when telling DCF no.