Florida Department of Children & Families

CPS TIPS for Lawyers Center for Children’s Advocacy

TIPS for Lawyers Center for Children’s Advocacy

ACCESSING DCF RECORDS

  1. What records will I automatically receive when I represent a parent or child in juvenile court?

You will receive a copy of all papers filed with the Juvenile Court.  For example, you will receive a copy of:

  • Applications for Order of Temporary Custody
    •    Social Worker Affidavits
    •    Neglect Petitions
    •    Summaries of Facts
    •    Social Studies
    •    Status Reports
    •    Psychological/Psychiatric Evaluation Reports conducted pursuant to a court order
    •    Any motions filed with the court
    •    You will not receive any DCF internal records that are not filed with the court.
  1. What other kinds of records does DCF have?

DCF creates many documents that you will want to be aware of:

  • Investigation Documents:
    DCF creates an “Investigation Protocol,” typically a 10 page document that tracks an investigation from the initial report to the agency’s decision regarding substantiation. If you want a copy of this document, you will have to specifically request this document by name.
  • Running Narrative (or LINK record): 
    The Running Narrative is a daily record of case activities created by the social worker and any one else at DCF who worked on a particular case. The Narrative should detail all phone calls made or received, all meetings held, all court appearances, and all DCF-supervised or DCF-facilitated visits. The Narrative entries should be made within 5 days of the described activity.
  • Structured Decision-Making Tools: 
    DCF also uses specific risk, safety and reunification assessment tools pursuant to the agency’s new Structured Decision-Making social work model. These tools help the agency determine, at every stage of a child protection case, how best to proceed. These tools encourage the Department to identify specific safety or risk factors so that the social work team can make a disciplined decision. If your parent client or child client has been subject to an Order of Temporary Custody, for example, DCF likely used a Safety Assessment Tool in making the decision to remove the child from his home. Be sure to ask for this document by name.
  • Treatment Plan: 
    DCF also creates a treatment plan for every committed child and his family, and the attorney is entitled to have a copy of this document.
  • Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation Reports: 
    DCF facilitates a Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation (a comprehensive physical) for a child within 45 days of the child’s commitment to the Department’s care. The MDE report will contain useful information about your child client’s physical, mental and emotional needs. It may contain recommendations for future evaluations or services that your client will be entitled to.
  • Service Provider Reports: 
    DCF will also obtain records from DCF-contracted providers who are serving your client. For example, if your client was referred for counseling, and your client signed pertinent releases, DCF should be receiving regular written status reports from the clinical provider.

If DCF sends a child or youth to a residential facility, DCF should be receiving regular reports from the facility regarding the child’s progress and well-being.
See C.G.S. § 17a-151aa.

  1. How do I obtain records from DCF?

You will need to specifically ask for the records you want. For example, if you ask for the “Running Narrative” from January 1 to May 10, that is what you will receive. DCF will not send you the Treatment Plan or the Investigation Protocol unless you ask for them.

Connecticut General Statute § 17a-28 provides attorneys for parents and children the right to access records pertaining to their client’s case.

“Records” is defined by the statute to include any “information created or obtained in connection with the Department’s child protection activities.”

Simply send a letter to DCF requesting the specific records you are seeking. Don’t forget to include the DCF records-request form along with your letter. Address your letter to the DCF paralegal or principal attorney. Be sure to include a date by which you expect to receive the records.

Click here to access the DCF Legal Directory
Click here to access a sample Records Request Letter
Click here to access the DCF Records Request Form

  1. Are there any DCF records that I will receive without asking?

Please note that DCF policy § 46-3-5 provides that social workers should bring “relevant Department records to the first OTC hearing so that parents and counsel may review any pertinent documents to the case.” Despite this policy provision, many attorneys report that no additional records are provided at the OTC hearing.

Please also note that In re Lindsey P., 49 Conn.Supp. 132, Conn.Super. (March 10, 2004) mandated that DCF social workers must include any and all exculpatory information in affidavits supporting applications for ex parte orders of temporary custody.

  1. Do I need a release from the parent in order to get records related to my client’s case?

If you represent a child, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-28(f) provides that DCF shall provide copies of records to “the attorney [or guardian ad litem] appointed to represent a child in any court in litigation affecting the best interests of the child.”  No release or consent is required.

If you represent a parent, the statute is less clear. Section 17a-28(m) provides that an individual’s “authorized representative” or “attorney” has the right to access records maintained by the department.  The statute defines “attorney” to mean the “licensed attorney authorized to assert the confidentiality of or right of access to records of a person.”  Accordingly, many attorneys report that they obtain releases from their client prior to requesting records from DCF.

  1. What should I do if DCF does not send me the records or refuses to provide certain records?

If you believe that you are legally entitled to the records and DCF does not have a valid reason to refuse your request, you have several available options.

  1. You can call the DCF principal attorney (see link above for DCF legal directory) in the area office and attempt to resolve the dispute.
  2. You can call the Assistant Attorney General assigned to your case and enlist his or her help to solve the problem.
  3. You can file an emergency motion in court, pursuant to Practice Book § 34a-23, requesting that the records be delivered to the court by a date certain. If you file a motion for the records, you should detail the efforts you made to secure the records through non-judicial means. Practice Book Rule § 34a-20 provides counsel the right of discovery “with the permission of the [court] if the information or material sought is not otherwise obtainable and upon a finding that proceedings will not be unduly delayed.”