In the past year or so, the Department of Children and Families rolled out a new model for how the agency handles 51A’s. It’s called the Integrated Casework Practice Model. While the jury is still out on whether it is going to achieve it stated purposes (see below), what seems clear to me is that DCF has a lot more flexibility in responding to 51As than it did before. For example, instead of routinely “screening in” 51As when the call comes in, now DCF has up to three days to decide whether to screen a 51A in. Equally as important, now DCF doesn’t necessarily have to conduct a 51B investigation once a 51A is screened in but instead can do an “initial assessment” (IA) in order to determine whether a “comprehensive assessment” is necessary.
While these changes are certainly welcome, parents still need to be extremely concerned about having a 51A filed against them and having DCF coming to their home or to their children’s schools. Make no mistake, even if DCF calls it an “initial assessment,” it is still “investigating” the circumstances of the 51A and once they are in your home, anything can happen. That is, everything is on the table, not just the allegations of the 51A, but how the family is functioning overall, whether the children are at risk generally and whether the family needs services.
One major concern with the new model is that if the Department recommends keeping the case open and putting the family on a “service plan,” they can be involved in the family’s life indefinitely. Parents need to know that they can refuse services, but they also better understand the risks in denying services. Again, it is vital to engage a lawyer right away…
Here is a summary (taken from the DCF website) of the new Integrated Casework Practice Model:
The Integrated Casework Practice Model is designed to:
_ Stabilize families so that children can safely remain at home;
_ Reduce repeat maltreatment of children; and
_ Effectively target DCF resources to meet the needs of families requiring DCF services.
What is DCF