Approximately 90% of parents settle child custody disagreements without needing a judge’s ruling. However, in the other 10% of cases, parents not only have to go to court, but the battle undoubtedly gets ugly. In some cases, false reports are made to DCF in order to gain an advantage in court. These false reports can turn into a lengthy investigation, looking into you and your parenting.
So we’ve found everything you need to know about a DCF investigation. That way, you can prepare for the process that lies ahead and know how best to defend yourself.
Now, are you ready to get started? Here’s an in-depth look at the Florida DCF investigation process:
Why Is DCF Investigating Me?
DCF is required to investigate any reports of child abuse or neglect. Now, keep in mind DCF doesn’t want to split families apart. Their job is to look at what’s in the child’s best interest.
In many instances, a false report is filed to gain an advantage in a divorce custody battle. DCF is aware of this unfortunate strategy; however, they have to investigate to ensure the claim is false.
Do I Need an Attorney?
You have the right to have an attorney present whenever DCF questions you. Whether you need to hire one is up to you. However, we strongly encourage anyone who doesn’t know the ins and outs of family law to hire an attorney.
If you already have a divorce attorney, let him or her know about the investigation. You can have him or her sit in with you when you have conversations with DCF. That way, he or she can help advise you on how best to defend your case.
It’s important that your attorney has experience with the DCF investigation process and procedures. These investigations can be lengthy and complicated, so hire an attorney with extensive knowledge that way they can.
What Happens During a Florida DCF Investigation Process?
When DCF obtains a report of abuse or neglect, the Department is required to look into the allegations and determine if the child is safe. The investigation process can be lengthy and often overwhelming for everyone involved. To understand the investigation process more thoroughly, we’ve detailed the three steps of a DCF investigation below:
Step 1: Screening the Report
Once DCF receives a report, it’s immediately screened. The screening process allows investigators to determine if DCF involvement is warranted. It also allows investigators to gather more information about the initial report, so they can examine the situation thoroughly.
The investigators will first assess whether the report meets the Department’s criteria for involvement. If the report meets the criteria, the investigation will start further screening. If it doesn’t, the case will be screened out, and no further action will be required.
To begin the screening process, investigators will first question the person who made the report, asking for additional details and evidence to support their claim. DCF may contact family doctors, teachers, and other professionals close to the family who can provide additional details to the report.
Step 2: Investigating the Report
Once a DCF report is moved to the investigating phase, investigators will begin assessing possible current and future risks a child may face. The investigators will also examine the ability of a parent or caregiver to provide a happy, healthy, and safe environment for the child.
If the situation is deemed severe, DCF invokes an emergency response. However, if the situation isn’t severe, they’ll invoke a non-emergency response. The type of response dictates the timeframe of the investigation and what action the investigators can take.
Step 3: Report Determination
After the investigation process is complete, investigators will determine if there’s any basis for the allegation and recommend how to proceed. For instance, if investigators found evidence of abuse or neglect, they’ll likely petition to have the child stay with either a foster home or a close relative.
However, if there is no wrongdoing, they’ll conclude that in the report, recommending that the child stay in the residence.
What are the Timeframes for DCF to Complete its Investigation?
The screening process begins once a report is received and is completed within two hours to one day. The investigation process is completed based on the type of response needed.
If a report needs an emergency response, the investigation will begin two to four hours after the screening process and will be finished after five days. If a report consists of a non-emergency, the investigation will begin three days after the screening process and must be completed within 15 days.
Finally, report determination may take as long as 20 to 45 days after the investigation phase is complete. In total, the DCF investigation process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the report and its findings.
What Should I Do If I’m Under Investigation?
If you’re under investigation, be responsive and respectful to all the investigators. Your cooperation with the investigation will be looked at throughout the case.
If you’re calm, respectful, and responsive, you demonstrate that you have nothing to hide and want what’s in your child’s best interest. However, if you appear abrasive or ignore requests by investigators, your behavior may display that you’re hiding something and disregard your child’s safety and happiness.
So remember to mind your manners and participate seriously in the investigation. DCF investigators like it when a parent takes the investigation earnestly.
During this process, gather a list of people who have favorable opinions of you and your parenting. Provide DCF with a copy of these individuals’ names, phone numbers, and email addresses.
While you may be inclined to write down family members, DCF would rather hear professional opinions. For example, DCF values teachers, daycare workers, and healthcare doctors’ opinions since they can provide insight into your child’s health and well-being.
Professionals are also unlikely to lie because they have nothing to gain. If you list a close friend or a family member, DCF may not fully believe the individual due to the fact they are close to you and want you to have custody of your child.
To further defend yourself, take a parenting course. It might seem extreme, but if DCF offers a class, take it without question. Taking a parenting course shows investigators you are committed to being a better parent and are not afraid of getting help.
DCF is always bothered when they see a parent not willing to be open-minded about parenting techniques. After all, parenting is challenging, so why not take steps to better understand how to communicate with and teach your kids?
What Does a Parenting Course Involve?
Courses differ based on the business offering them. However, most courses are tailor-made to meet parents’ needs and teach them how to better communicate with their children. Some courses may provide advice on how to handle difficult situations as well as how best to prepare your kids to be sufficient adults.
Parents should attend the course and pass a post-exam to receive the certification of completion. A copy of the completed certification can be sent to DCF for investigators to review and consider.
How to Find a Good Parenting Course
Finding a DCF-approved parenting course can be difficult. Thankfully we at Compliance Education have a low-cost and DCF-approved course that will help you. Our course is designed to be adaptable to your needs.
Don’t have time to go to a physical location? No problem with our online course; you can learn whenever you want. The course takes about four hours and instantly has your certificate available to print when you’re done.
Take a DCF Parenting Course Today
Being in the middle of a Florida DCF investigation process is understandably overwhelming and a bit scary. Keep in mind that it’s likely a false report made to gain an advantage in your divorce custody battle.
However, even if it’s a false report, take these matters seriously. Stay calm, respectful, and be responsive to the case.
You can hire an attorney to represent you if you wish. If you want to forgo an attorney, make sure to gather witness statements and quickly complete a DCF-offered parenting course. Having professionals speak to your character and completing a course goes a long way in demonstrating that you’re a good parent.
Now for more information about our parenting course, contact us today.