DCF has Temporary Custody, Now What do I do?
Once the Court finds an imminent risk of abuse or neglect exists, or the parent(s) waive their 72-hour hearing, DCF has temporary custody of the children. The Department of Children and Families will place the child first with kin, but if kin cannot be located, they will place the children in foster care. Thereafter, the parents may only be entitled to 1-hour supervised visits at the DCF office. Generally speaking, the DCF goal for children at this juncture should be “reunification of the family.”
Once temporary custody is established DCF provides a task list to the parents, known as a Family Action Plan, or “FAP,” and previously known as a “Service Plan.” Essentially, DCF makes a list of tasks that need to occur in order to meet the goal of reunification of the family. The FAP is an agreement and should not be entered into lightly. An attorney should scrutinize this document prior to the parent(s) agreeing to the tasks. Quite often the FAP is a boilerplate document and may contain tasks that are not appropriate for a particular parent. For instance, the Department may request a substance abuse treatment program because there was a single report that a parent was under the influence of alcohol. However, just because a parent was intoxicated does not mean that the parent is alcoholic. Great care should be given when reviewing these agreements. Ultimately, the parent(s) will be graded on their performance at was is known as a “Foster Care Review.”
DCF must convene a Foster Care Review meeting at least every six months while the children are in custody. DCF will review whether the children continue to require out-of-home placement, and whether the parents have complied with their FAP agreements. Here, if the parents are found to be in full compliance with their FAP it serves as evidence that they are fit parents and the children could be placed back home and reunified. However, if the parents are found to be non-compliant, or partially compliant, DCF could change the children’s goal from reunification to adoption.
If DCF has custody of your children the first step is become compliant with the Family Action Plan, to show the Court and DCF that you are a fit parent who is ready, willing, and able to be reunified with your children. It is vital to have the FAP scrutinized by a lawyer who specializes in this area of law.