If you’re being investigated by the Department of Families and Children (DCF) for abuse and neglect of a child, it is important to take the matter seriously. In some cases parents or caregivers don’t have any idea why they’re being investigated and in other cases they are aware there’s a problem – either way it’s wise to get advice immediately. The DCF has the power to remove your children from your home, terminate your parental rights and prevent you from having contact with your kids. If you’re a teacher or professional caregiver, the investigation has the potential to destroy your career. That’s why it’s important to hire an experienced DCF attorney to negotiate a resolution on your behalf. The Bothehlo Group provides itself in helping families resolve their DCF cases quickly and with a minimum of stress.
How Does DCF Open A Case?
DCF is charged with investigating every report of abuse and/or neglect that is reported to their office. The reports can be from teachers, sports coaches or neighbors who witnessed something they believed was abuse or neglect by a parent or caregiver. After the report is made, the DCF will look at the evidence that’s available, including multiple reports against the same parent or caregiver, and make a decision about whether abuse or neglect actually occurred. If they decide that the report has merit, they will contact you for more information and will conduct a follow-up investigation. During or after this phase of the investigation, you’ll usually be asked to sign a Family Action Plan, also called a Service Plan, where you agree to participate in parenting classes, attend substance abuse treatment and/or additional restrictions and obligations. An experienced Massachusetts DCF can help you decide whether the benefits of agreeing to the Family Action Plan against the risk of signing on to a defacto admission to abuse or neglect. That’s why it’s important to retain an experienced Massachusetts DCF attorney when you’re being investigated by the DCF.
What If the Report Is Meritless?
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for people to report abuse or neglect to DCF out of spite or because they’re confused about what they witnessed and it’s not uncommon for divorcing spouses to report each other to DCF hoping to get leverage during a custody battle. In many cases DCF can flag these self-serving and meritless reports, but with so much at stake it’s not worth taking a chance on an adverse decision with dramatic consequences for your family such as:
- Taking your children into custody;
- Terminating your parental rights;
- Placing your children into foster care;
- Limiting or eliminating your right to visitation;
- Placing your name on a child sex offender list;
- Disclosing information to the community about the allegations during their investigation;
- Interviewing your kids at school without notice or permission and
- Pressing charges against you with local law enforcement.
That’s why it’s you should never speak to DCF before retaining an experienced Massachusetts DCF lawyer to represent you.
How A Supported Finding or Neglect or Abuse Can Impact You
If DCF issues a Supported Finding of Neglect or Abuse, your name will be entered into the state database which is checked by employers that hire people that work with children. Registration in the state database can also impact some types of professional licenses and may even prevent you from attending functions at your child’s school. DCF records are also admissible in Family Court during child custody proceedings and if you’re in a high profile profession, the news of a Supported Finding has a good chance of making it’s way into the media.
How Can A Massachusetts DCF Attorney Help You?
The beginning of a DCF investigation is extremely important because the right strategy will greatly reduce the likelihood of a finding of abuse or neglect. The Bothehlo can advise you on the best way to interact with DCF during interviews with the children and family member or an attorney can come to your home and represent you at home visits. If DCF determines that there are supported findings of neglect or abuse, or a substantiated concern, the investigation and will continue to use strategies to mitigate the situation as well as filing an Fair Hearing Appeal of Supported Findings of Neglect or Abuse. We can also file a Grievance on your behalf and provide consulting about the DCF process.