New DCF Policies Impact Teachers
DCF has developed a new policy for investigating failure to report incidents
CEA Member Legal Services recently learned that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has developed a new policy for investigating failure to report incidents. Specifically, a special investigations unit is now investigating claims of failure to report incidents for purposes of assessing whether or not to refer each case to the state's attorney for criminal prosecution. These failure-to-report investigations also include DELAYS in reporting, meaning anything beyond the mandatory 12-hour timeframe to report. Since this new policy went into effect, many teachers have become subject to DCF investigations for delayed reporting, even if it is just a few hours beyond the required timeframe.
Please allow this to serve as a reminder that as a mandated reporter, and pursuant to Connecticut law, you must report suspected neglect or abuse within 12 hours. A failure to report may be considered an offense up to a Class E felony and may be punishable with jail time.
Be aware that DCF is now offering an online reporting option; however, we strongly recommend that teachers continue calling the Careline. The DCF Online Reporting Form is only to be used for a non-emergent suspicion, defined as a circumstance wherein there is suspicion of abuse or neglect and the alleged victim, or similarly situated minor, is not presenting
- in immediate harm;
- with need for urgent or emergent medical or mental health care; or
- with a realistic fear of further abuse or neglect within the next 24 hours
At least one of these situations requires further investigation by the mandated reporter to determine whether the child has "realistic" fears, which runs contrary to our recommendation not to investigate.
Until we receive clarification and further guidance on this new online system, it remains our recommendation that teachers continue to call the Careline to avoid a situation where a child is in an emergent situation but where a mandated reporter might incorrectly use the online form. Per state statute and as indicated on the DCF online submission guidelines, "by failing to submit the information in full or submitting a report that is emergent, you have not met your responsibility as a mandated reporter," which would constitute a failure to report.
Finally, CEA Member Legal Services is available to visit your district and provide training to your members on matters involving DCF, including the issues discussed above. Please contact your local president or UniServ Representative if you are interested in this training.