BENNINGTON - Police say there have been several reports of suspicious people posing as representatives of the Vermont Department of Children and Families.
Vermont State Police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro said the latest incident occurred Monday in Sunderland. Three people, one female and two males, all white, showed up at a residence on Phyller Dee Lane and told a grandmother that a child's parents were under investigation by "child protective services." The suspects asked to search the residence and picked up the child for inspection, Dasaro said. When the grandmother resisted the suspects indicated that they may return to take the child into custody and be placed into foster care. Dasaro said the three individuals then became nervous and left in two vehicles, a gray sedan and a maroon sedan.
Other incidents have occurred in St. Johnsbury and Lyndonville recently.
On Oct. 29, the VSP received a report from the St. Johnsbury area that a white female went to a home at the Mountain View Apartments and identified herself as a DCF worker investigating a report of child abuse. The female suspect was granted access to the home and she inspected the child before leaving without further incident. The female was seen driving a silver sedan.
The Lyndonville Police Department received a report on Dec. 1 about three women, one black and two white, who went to a home on Valley Lane claiming to be from "Human Services" or "Home Health." The women said they were "following up on a report that was made up the road." A male resident at the home said the three inquired about a female resident that was not home. They left the home when the female resident returned, according to Dasaro. The three women showed no identification and left in what witnesses said was a dark blue Ford Escape with New York license plates.
Dasaro said there is no known active investigations by DCF involving the targeted families. Nor is there any known connection between the three families, she said.
"In terms of how those people were picked and what the relationships are with the suspects, I don't know," she said.
Investigations are ongoing in all three incidents and involve state police and DCF officials, Dasaro said.
Officials said people should be aware of the following information:
- All DCF employees have identification badges that they carry with them during official business.
- Citizens are encouraged to ask to have this identification produced to verify the employee.
- DCF workers cannot take emergency custody of a child without a court order.
- If someone claims to have a court order to take custody of a child, ask to see the court document.
- If you suspect someone is impersonating a DCF employee, call 911 immediately.
Dasaro said investigators are not sure what the intentions of the suspects were. However, she said police and DCF officials are hoping the information will help avoid a "worst case scenario."
"Part of our job is public safety. We don't want to see a child missing," she said. "If these suspects continue this behavior hopefully we'll be able to track them done."
Anyone with information about these incidents or suspects should call the Vermont State Police at the St. Johnsbury Barracks at 802-748-3111 or the Shaftsbury Barracks at 802-442-5421. To submit an anonymous tip send a text to "CRIMES" (274637) with keyword: VTIPS; or submit a anonymous tip online at www.vtips.info.