When someone accuses you of child abuse or neglect in Massachusetts, the Department of Children and Families (MA DCF) will probably do an investigation into your family. During a DCF investigation a DCF social worker will visit your home, interview you, your children and any other collaterals to determine if the allegations are true.
Frequently Ask DCF Investigation Questions
A MA DCF Investigation happens after DCF screens in a report of child abuse and or neglect.
There are two types of DCF Investigations: emergency and non-emergency. The differences between the two include things like how long each one lasts and the seriousness of the allegations. DCF is more likely to remove a child from their home and place them into foster care during emergency investigations.
An emergency investigation is when the DCF screener determines that there is an immediate danger to the child. This type of investigation begins within 24 hours.
Collateral that DCF will contact are pediatrician, school, therapist and any other service providers to you and your children.
In Massachusetts, a DCF investigation lasts for 15 working days, which does not include weekends and holidays. A DCF investigator may extend the investigation when they need more information to proceed with their findings.
During a DCF 51B Investigation, the DCF investigator visits the family home and asks questions about the incident. The investigator will speak to the parents and children involved to get information about the alleged incident. Investigators will also contact collaterals that view the children such as their doctors, dentists, therapists (when applicable), and schools. At the end of the 51B investigation, the DCF worker will decide to support or unsupport the allegations.
Though it can help your case a lot if you hire an experienced DCF attorney for the investigation period, you don’t necessarily need one. After an investigation, DCF can start an assessment, or unsupport the allegations. Having an Attorney at this stage can help prevent DCF from opening an assessment of your family that could drag on for months. Remember, DCF tells you that you are entitled to speak to an attorney at any time during your DCF case.
When the allegations against you are “unsupported” it means DCF found no evidence to believe the allegations were true. DCF will then close your case and get out of your life.
When DCF supports the allegations, it means they think the allegations are true. They make this decision when they have a “reasonable cause to believe” the incident happened. Under 110 CMR 4.32, “‘Reasonable Cause to believe'” means a collection of facts, knowledge or observations which tend to support or are consistent with the allegations, and when viewed in light of the surrounding circumstances and credibility of persons providing information, would lead one to conclude that a child has been abused or neglected. Factors to consider include, but are not limited to, the following: direct disclosure by the child(ren) or caretaker; physical evidence of injury or harm; observable behavioral indicators; corroboration by collaterals (e.g., professionals, credible family members); and the social worker and supervisor’s clinical base of knowledge.
The outcomes of a DCF investigation depend on whether DCF supported or unsupported the allegations. Sometimes, when DCF is not sure if the allegations are true, they will make a substantiated concern decision.
Mr. Seaver will be with you every step of the way. He will be present during all DCF home visits, and for each time that DCF interviews you and your children. Also, he will advocate for you and ensure DCF does not bend or break the law when questioning you and your children.
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Kevin Seaver is a trusted Massachusetts DCF Attorney Specialized in DCF Law since 1991.