What happens after the investigation?
After the investigation is finished, DCF will decide if the original report of abuse is "supported" or "not supported."
If DCF says the report is "not supported," this means the DCF worker did not find any evidence that your child was abused or neglected. DCF will close your case.
If DCF says the report is "supported," this means the DCF worker thinks there is evidence your child was abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected by a caretaker.
DCF should send you a letter that tells you whether the report was "supported" or "not supported."
What if the report is supported?
If the report is supported, DCF has 45 days to do an “assessment” of your family. The assessment is to see if your family needs services. At this point, you will get a new social worker to handle your case. The first social worker was the investigator.
The new social worker will try to get to know you and your family during the assessment period. This is a good time for you to find out what services DCF offers and whether those services can help your family. DCF services include:
- parent-aides to help you with some of the things you need to do for your child,
- counseling for you and your children,
- parenting education,
- help with housing and utilities, and/or
- other things to help your family.
Usually you will get a "service plan" at the end of the assessment. The service plan describes the services you will get. The service plan also says things that you have to do. The service plan may include things like:
- Go to counseling,
- Make sure your child gets to school on time,
- Make sure your child does his or her homework.
It is important to understand what your service plan says. Talk to your DCF worker about the service plan before you sign it.
Tell your worker if:
- you need transportation to get to places that the service plan says you have to go;
- you think there are too many appointments for you to get to all of them; or
- there are other problems with the service plan.
You may want to talk to a lawyer or advocate before you sign your service plan. Once you sign the service plan, you have to follow it. If you do not do everything that the service plan says you have to do, DCF may try to get custody of your child.
If you sign the service plan and then have trouble following it, ask your DCF worker to change the plan. Ask for a meeting with your worker, or write to your worker and explain why you feel you have to stop. Do not stop doing what you agreed to do unless your worker changes your plan.
DCF can do other things during the assessment period if the worker thinks your child is in danger. DCF can:
- ask you to agree to place your child in foster care. If the social worker asks you to sign a "voluntary placement agreement,” ask for time to talk to a lawyer or advocate before you sign.
- go to Juvenile Court to try to get custody of your child. DCF only does this if the worker thinks your child is in danger. If DCF goes to Juvenile Court, this is called a "Care and Protection" case. You have the right to a lawyer for this type of case. The court will appoint a lawyer to represent you if you cannot afford to pay for one. The court will also appoint a different lawyer for your child at no cost to you. Your child's other parent also gets to have a lawyer.
In most cases DCF does not ask you to place your child in foster care or go to Juveile Court to get custody.
Does DCF file criminal charges?
No. DCF does not file criminal charges. DCF also does not have the power to arrest anyone.
But DCF has to tell the District Attorney if it seems like there has been sexual abuse, serious injury, or death of a child. The District Attorney can then file criminal charges.
Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Last updated May 2010