What every parent needs to know and what many have already found out is this: it doesn’t matter how much money you have (or don’t have) or what town you live in, or where you went to school or what school your child goes to or what pediatrician you use. What I have observed, in over 14 years of representing parents (and children) in DSS / DCF related cases (investigations, Care and Protection and CHINS cases, Fair Hearings etc.), is that EVERY PARENT is now suspectible to getting a 51A filed against them. No parent or guardian (or for that matter, foster parent or day care provider) seems to be off limits to a DCF investigation.
In just the past year I have represented parents across the economic spectrum–from the very wealthy to the very poor in a variety of situations such as
- A day care facility (mandated reporter) files a 51A because a child dropped a prenatal vitamin (that her mother had accidentally left on a table in their home that morning…the child had put it in her pocket). The school filed the 51A even though Poison Control confirmed that one child would have had to consume 30 such pills to have been harmed by it. Needless to say, the 51B caused the parents, both highly educated and professional and, frankly, wonderful and caring parents, needless anxiety and frustration. They hired me and after writing a detailed letter to the Area Director (while on vacation, I might add), I am pleased to say that DCF unsupported the 51A. And the parents did not have to wait one to two years for a Fair Hearing! This occurred at the end of the assessment.
- A decorated war hero who did three tours of duty who now works in emergency rooms as a highly skilled technician in life and death situations made the unfortunate mistake of spanking his fiance’s son with a belt, a child who refers to him as “daddy” and clearly loves him. The child had been getting into trouble at school and my client first used calesthenics to encourage the boy to tell him what was going on in school (a scene right out of “The Great Santini” I might add) and eventually resorted to corporal punishment (which he did not want to do). The day before he spanked the boy, my client actually asked the school vice principal what he should do with the boy and was told that he should learn to “pick his battles.” The following Monday, the vice-principal brought the child into her office and asked how his “father” disciplined him. A few minutes later, the child dropped his pants to reveal bruises. You can guess what happened next. (I will write more about this one later.)
- An ex-husband, sick and tired of paying child support, gets his 12 year old son to accuse his mother of “hitting” him just two or so weeks before a custody hearing (his second attempt). My client, who was looking forward to teaching again in the fall (and thus was at risk of losing her job), was doing her absolute best trying to raise her two kids. Unfortunately, her son was finding his visits with his father–where no restrictions were placed on him–too good to be true so he wanted to live with him. During the investigation, the social worker talked to the child’s therapist (who wouldn’t even talk to the mother, only the father) and the father’s attorney, who filled up 3/4s of a page in the 51B investigation that was redacted (blacked out) so I couldn’t’ read it. DCF did not support the physical abuse charge (because by that time the boy recanted) but found the mother neglectful because There are concerns that the child appears to have issues with the divorce and is angry about the situation. Mother has inappropriate high expectations of the child for his young age i.e. he has to do his own laundry. There are concerns that the mother has pitted the siblings against each other. After absolutely blasting the Department in writing for an incompetent and one-side investigation (and for failing to see what was really going on), I was able to get DCF to admit that they should never have supported the 51A and to overturn it by the end of the 45-day assessment.
Will provide additional examples soon.)