Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
DCF can become involved with your family for a number of reasons. It’s almost always a good idea to involve legal representation in your dealings with them.
51A- This is a report of suspected abuse and neglect of a child. In this instance, an issue is reported to DCF either from a mandated reporter or someone else. DCF then opens what’s called a 51A investigation where they interview everyone involved. They are also likely to talk with your child’s school, doctor, neighbors or anyone else that can shed light on any issues regarding the child. They have 10 days to complete this investigation. If the 51A is supported for abuse and neglect and you don’t agree with this determination, you have the right to request a Fair Hearing to try to overturn this decision. The Fair Hearing is a very intimidating process for the lay person. It’s argued in front of an impartial DCF Fair Hearing officer and through questioning and presenting evidence, you prove that DCF was wrong in supporting a finding against you.
51B- DCF can open the case for services which is called a 51B. The family would receive services and DCF would continue to monitor the situation.
Care and Protection- DCF could also take custody of the child and remove from the home. There would be a 72 hour hearing in Juvenile Court. DCF would have to show in that hearing that they were justified in removing the child. A Care and Protection matter occurs when DCF is seeking to have parental rights terminated. It’s a long and arduous process where parents often feel that they have no say and cannot fight against the DCF machine.
Hiring a lawyer who is familiar with DCF can help navigate you for the best outcome possible.