The first and most common way DCF gets custody of your children is during the filing and the subsequent DCF investigation of a child abuse report. This happens when somebody calls DCF with a report of child abuse against you. Three types of people will call DCF with a report of child abuse. These three people are a Mandated Reporter, Non-Mandated Reporter or an Anonymous Reporter. The most common is a Mandated Reporter. Examples of a mandated reporter include a Doctor, Nurse, Teacher, and Social Worker. When DCF receives the child, abuse report they must then decide at the screening process what is a reportable condition and what is not a reportable condition. The child abuse report is either screened out and the case is closed, or it is screened in for an investigation. This investigation can lead to DCF receiving either “emergency” or “non-emergency” custody of your children. Your children may be placed with a relative, in a foster home, or in an institution.
The second way that your child may go into DCF custody may occur during a contentious divorce or Court hearing. Mom and Dad will sit in Probate & Family Court, and talk bad about each other, sometimes making damaging assertions against the other parent. For example, Mom may say Dad has a drug problem. Mom may continue by saying that he should not be the caretaker for the children due to being under the influence and that poses a risk to his children. The Dad then retaliates against Mom with an allegation that she has an alcohol problem, and that she puts the children at risk due to this problem. The Judge is caught in the middle of these two feuding parents. The Judge may decide that neither parent should have the children and orders that the children be placed immediately with DCF. The Judge has heard sufficient evidence to feel that the children are not safe to be in the home. DCF will place the children in foster care until everything can be sorted out, as to who is telling the truth about the allegations asserted by the two parents this will not be known for some time. DCF then must try to determine who was telling the truth and who was not telling the truth. This is not easy! During the DCF investigation this may or may not come out. Then once the parents find out what the Judge has ordered both parents try then to retract their comments. The parents will say that their previous comment “is not exactly true”; the Dad says she is not that big of a drinker and the Mom says he does drugs only “socially”. However, it is too late, as the damage and the Judge’s orders have already been established.
The third way is DCF files in court for custody. Usually such custody is requested in Juvenile Court. This happens regardless if there is something going on in Probate & Family Court. This is because DCF is not a party to the proceedings going on in the Probate & Family Court. The Care & Protection is filed under M.G. L. c. 119 sec. 24 in Juvenile Court.