New Haven DCF Substantiation Hearing Process

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families is responsible for investigating all claims of child abuse and domestic violence. If the department has reason to believe a person is a danger to the children in their care, they will allow the accused person to request a hearing.

A DCF hearing operates much like a regular court hearing, in which both the accused person and the DCF have an opportunity to prove their cases. The outcome of such a hearing can be serious, and if an accused person does not have access to a knowledgeable DCF lawyer who understands the New Haven DCF substantiation hearing process, the hearing officer may find them unfit to parent their child.

The Initial Safety Assessment

State law requires the DCF to investigate claims of domestic violence or child abuse and neglect within 48 hours. DCF officials investigate claims during “safety assessment” visits to households. During this assessment, they arrive at a random time to interview everyone in the household and examine the physical property for any signs of abuse or neglect.

After performing the safety assessment, the DCF official compiles an official report and submit to the department for review. If the official believes the claims may be true, they would indicate the claims are “substantiated” in the report. If this occurs, members of the household go before a judge, and if the judge believes they are a threat to any children in the household, the children may be taken away temporarily, or in the most severe cases, permanently.

Requesting a Hearing

Once the safety assessment is done, the DCF official files an official report. If the report of abuse is substantiated, the accused party will receive a notification that includes:

  • A brief description of the allegations that launched the investigation
  • A statement informing the accused their name will be placed in an abuse and neglect registry unless they appeal
  • A list of the negative consequences associated with being listed in the abuse and neglect registry
  • Information about filing for an administrative hearing
  • A form for the accused to sign and mail if they intend to request a hearing, which must be returned within 30 days of the postage date printed on the notice

What Happens During a DCF Hearing?

During an RCF hearing, the accused parent may either represent themselves or hire an attorney familiar with the New Haven DCF substantiation hearing process to represent their interests against the state. Since the DCF has the burden of proof in such cases, they must submit their evidence before a hearing officer.

In a hearing, a DCF attorney must demonstrate “probable cause”—in other words, they do not have to prove the parent is guilty of abuse “beyond all reasonable doubt.” During the hearing, the parent and their lawyer have the opportunity to question the evidence presented by the DCF. They also have the opportunity to call witnesses such as family members, teachers, mental health professionals, and neighbors, as does the DCF.

Consulting a New Haven DCF Attorney

If you are currently facing the prospect of a DCF hearing, it is normal to feel intimidated and confused. The DCF hires its own attorneys, so you may need to hire an attorney who has experience dealing with the DCF or you may find yourself in over your head. Reach out to a lawyer who understands the New Haven DCF substantiation hearing process today.