Protecting Parent’s Rights in DCF Litigation
What Is DCF?
In the state of Florida, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is a state agency that was created in 1996 to oversee programs and services involving child welfare, child abuse, childcare, legal services for children, foster care, domestic violence, human trafficking, drug abuse, and mental health issues.
The DCF is authorized to remove children from any situation that is harmful to their welfare, even if caseworkers only have a suspicion that something is wrong in a household. If the DCF removes a child from a home, the parents, guardians or caregivers of that child are required to attend a hearing where evidence is presented regarding possible abuse. If a family court judge determines that the evidence is persuasive, he or she can place the child in foster care, or grant custody to another family member on a permanent or temporary basis.
What Are the Goals of DCF?
The DCF will always consider what is in the best interest of a child before deciding whether or not to remove a child from his or her home. That’s the reason that caseworkers that only have a suspicion of abuse are authorized to make a recommendation for a child to be taken from a home until the situation is fully investigated.
The DCF is primarily a child welfare agency, and its main goals include:
- Ensuring that children remain with their family.
- Ensuring that children live without the fear of abuse or neglect.
- Ensuring that children reunite with parents after foster home placement.
- Ensuring that teenage children in foster homes are prepared to transition into adulthood.
- Ensuring that children who are unable to be reunited with their parents are placed in a permanent home.
What Are a Parent’s Rights in DCF Litigation?
There may arise a situation in your life when the DCF pays a visit to your home based on the suspicion that a child’s welfare is in danger. And while this can certainly be a confusing and frightening time, you do have rights when you meet a DCF caseworker, including:
- The Right to Know All the Charges – state law requires the DCF to give you a list of all charges against you. That means you can refuse to let the caseworker into your home if he or she is unable to provide you with the list of charges.
- The Right to See the Court Order – DCF caseworkers cannot come into your home without producing a court order that grants them the authority to legally enter your premises. You have the right to ask for that court order or warrant before you say anything to the DCF caseworker.
- The Right to Say Nothing – in most instances, a DCF caseworker will not place you under arrest when they present a court order and tell you the charges against you. However, you still have the right to remain silent, and the caseworker cannot legally compel you to answer questions. In fact, you should inform the caseworker that you would like to speak to a family law attorney before you make any statement.
Why You Need an Experienced Family Law Attorney to Protect Your Rights in DCF Matters
DCF litigation can present a number of complexities and challenges that is best handled by a family lawyer with expertise in these cases.
After you are presented with charges involving your child, the DCF can remove that child pending a hearing. At that hearing, you will have to answer to those charges, and if those answers are not sufficient, the case will go to trial.
However, there is also the possibility that you could negotiate a settlement with the DCF, but doing so often requires the skills of an experienced law firm such as the team at The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire, PA. Please call us today at 561-655-8844 for a confidential legal consultation.