How to get reports and records from DCF

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Children's Law Center and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has many different processes for how it gives its reports and records to families. This includes 51A abuse or neglect reports and 51B investigation reports. The way to ask DCF for its records depends on your situation:

  1. DCF court cases: If you have a lawyer for a DCF court case, ask your lawyer to help you get copies of any DCF documents. DCF court cases include care and protection (C&P) cases and sometimes child requiring assistance (CRA) cases.
  2. DCF fair hearing: If you plan to ask for a DCF fair hearing, you can get documents from DCF through that process. You can ask for a DCF fair hearing if you disagree with a DCF decision about your family, such as a “support” decision. See DCF Fair Hearing Help Center.
  3. Probate and Family Court cases: If you are involved in a Probate and Family court case, you may be able to get DCF documents for that court case. See How the Probate and Family Court gets access to DCF records.
  4. Everyone else: Follow the steps below to ask DCF for copies of the reports and documents that they have about you or your child. Follow these steps if you are not in court or involved in a fair hearing, and you are: 
    1. an adult who was involved with DCF as a child or 
    2. the parent or guardian of a child involved with DCF.


DCF is not allowed to tell you the name of the person who reported you. The name of that person will be removed from your records. Learn more at Who made the 51A report against me?

Write a letter to the DCF Area Director.

You do not need to know the Area Director’s name. Include in the letter:

  • the child’s name,
  • your name and relationship to the child,
  • the case number, if you have it, and
  • the name of the DCF worker who investigated or who worked with your family, or
  • as much of this information as you have.
Identify the specific documents that you want from DCF.

Tell DCF in the letter the exact documents that you want from DCF. You can request your entire DCF file. It could take a while to get the entire file from DCF depending on how large it is. Specific documents that you might want to request from DCF include:

  • a specific 51A report (provide the approximate date of the report if you can) or all 51A reports;
  • a specific 51B investigation report or all 51B investigation reports;
  • any letters with the outcome of 51B investigations;
  • any risk assessments completed on your family;
  • any family actions plans created for your family; 
  • the notes that DCF workers must take when they communicate with anyone about your case. These notes are called DCF case worker “dictation”; and
  • case closing letters.
Tell DCF in the letter how you want to receive the documents.

Different DCF offices seem to have different ways that they will provide the records:

  • Email. The fastest way to receive the records is by email. If you would like DCF to send you the records by email, remember to include your email address. DCF will send the records by “secure” email. When you get the email, you will have to login to a secure site to see the records. Not all DCF offices will provide records by email.
  • In person. Some DCF offices require you to pick the records up in person. Other DCF offices may allow you to pick them up in person if you request to.You can pick the records up at the front desk. Bring an ID when you pick up the records because the office may want to see it.
  • Mail. DCF may be willing to mail the records to you. In your letter provide the address where you would like DCF to mail the records.
Make a copy of your request letter and put it in a safe place.

You can also take a photo of the letter with your phone.

Mail or fax your letter to the DCF area office who handled your DCF case.

You can find the mailing address or fax number of the DCF area office on DCF’s website.

Follow up with the DCF area office by phone.

You may need to call the DCF area office to confirm that the office received your request and to check on the status of your request. DCF may be able to give you an estimate about how long it will take for them to get the records to you.

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Find a FPP advocate
DCF FPP advocates

Family Preservation Project (FPP) advocates can help families with DCF involvement if the families:

  • are currently being investigated by DCF, or
  • have an open DCF case, or
  • in some cases, are at immediate risk of being involved with DCF, and

do not have a current DCF court case.

Find an FPP advocate.


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