When a child has been or is at risk of serious abuse and/or neglect and the caretaker is unfit to care for the child, a Care and Protection petition can be filed by The Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Juvenile court or Probate court.
To get emergency temporary custody of your child, your DCF social worker provides the judge with a written statement to inform why it is necessary to remove the child from you. If the judge agrees, the judge will give DCF custody of your child. In some cases, DCF has the legal authority to remove your child without advance court permission. When DCF takes custody of your child, they will place your child in:
- A foster home,
- A residential group home
- or with a relative (when one is available)
When your child is temporarily removed from his or her parent, the caretaker and the child have a right to a hearing. The hearing should be held within approximately 72 hours of the child’s removal. You as the caretaker and the child have a right to have an attorney at the hearing, and when eligible will be appointed an attorney at no cost.
A few months after the 72-hour hearing a trial occurs and the judge decides if it is in the child’s best interest to terminate the parent’s’ rights to the child. When the parents are “unfit” then custody of the child goes to DCF or another person. DCF as the caretaker can limit and or eliminate the following:
- Parental rights
- Visitation rights
- Where the child lives
- The child’s medical care