What you need to know about Child Protection Investigations and DCF

hands holding paper family cutout
Sean Powers

It is the nightmare of every parent. Your child experiences an injury or is prone to telling “tall takes” and suddenly an investigator from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) appears and says they are investigating possible abuse, abandonment, or neglect in regard to your child or children. While most people are marginally familiar with their rights when it comes to a criminal investigation (commonly seen in TV and movies and known as Miranda), an investigation by DCF is something that will catch most people completely off guard.

While the attorneys at McNary Powers, PLLC firmly believe that children must be protected from abuse, abandonment and neglect, a false accusation can lead to a traumatic experience for the children and the accused parent or parents. It is important that parents, and anyone else, realize that they have rights upon the initiation of an investigation by DCF and that any investigator must inform the subject of the investigation of said rights.

Chapter 39 of Florida Statutes govern matters involving investigations by DCF and their agents (often a local Sheriff’s Department). Contained within Florida Statute 39.301(5) is what the attorneys at McNary Powers, PLLC refer to as the “Miranda of Dependency Law.” Simply put, upon the commencement of a protective investigation, the investigator must inform the subject of the investigation of the following:

  • The names of the investigators and identifying credentials from the department.
  • The purpose of the investigation.
  • The right to obtain his or her own attorney and ways that the information provided by the subject may be used.
  • The possible outcomes and services of the department’s response.
  • The right of the parent or legal custodian to be engaged to the fullest extent possible in determining the nature of the allegation and the nature of any identified problem and the remedy.
  • The duty of the parent or legal custodian to report any change in the residence or location of the child to the investigator and that the duty to report continues until the investigation is closed.
  • The investigator shall fully inform parents or legal custodians of their rights and options, including opportunities for audio or video recording of investigators’ interviews with parents or legal custodians or children.

Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes : Online Sunshine (state.fl.us)

It should be noted that these rights must be explained to any subject of an investigation, not just a parent. While a legitimate investigation by DCF may save a vulnerable child from harm, an investigation based upon misinformation or false facts can be devastating to a family. The investigation is only the beginning of the process, having an attorney familiar with the intricacies of Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes can mean the difference between quickly resolving a misunderstanding and dragging a family through a year long process of intrusion by DCF.

If you find yourself the subject of an investigation by DCF or their agents, McNary Powers, LLC can help you.