If you are unhappy with The Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) supported decision of abuse and/or neglect against you then you may appeal this adverse decision. The only way to reverse such a supported decision by a DCF Investigation is to file for a DCF Fair Hearing. You must file for this Fair Hearing within thirty (30) calendar days.
DCF Fair Hearing requests must be filed in writing to the DCF Fair Hearing Unit. They are located at 600 Washington Street, 6th floor, in Boston, MA 02111. You must also send a copy to the Area Director of the Office who supported the decision against you.
When DCF removes a child from a foster or pre-adoptive home, you must file within ten (10) calendar days of DCF’s decision. The request must be filed in a timely manner. Failure to do so may result in the waiver of your legal right to appeal. You should appeal as soon as you learn of the supported decision.
When requesting a DCF Fair Hearing, include your contact information such as your name, address, and telephone number. You should also include a brief description of the supported decision against you, including the child’s name and date of birth if known. You should also include the date that the alleged incident occurred. Your request should contain a copy of the DCF support letter informing you of your right to appeal, and the reason for requesting a DCF Fair Hearing. Hold on to all your original documents and send only copies in the mail.
The DCF Fair Hearing Unit will schedule your Fair Hearing date within ten (10) calendar days upon receiving your request. The DCF Fair Hearing date will be scheduled within ninety (90) days of receipt of the DCF Fair Hearing request. The hearing is held in the DCF office where the supported decision was made and is set to a maximum of two hours. Extensions of time may be requested and granted by the DCF Fair Hearing Officer. You may look at portions of your DCF file that relate to why the decision was supported against you. You may have a lawyer represent you, and you may bring witnesses, documents, and other materials that can help your case. You may request to reschedule the DCF Fair Hearing. The sooner you make such request, the more likely it is for it to be granted by the DCF Fair Hearing Officer. Good cause must be shown for such a request.
Requests for discovery must be made in writing to the DCF Fair Hearing Officer, ten (10) calendar days prior to the hearing date. The DCF Fair Hearing Officer will decide on the discovery request and notify you of the decision.
The DCF Fair Hearing is conducted as a proceeding by an impartial DCF Fair Hearing Officer. The DCF Fair Hearing Officer’s role is to allow a full statement of the facts. This includes an informal setting that allows fair opportunity to present your case. Motions may be filed prior to or during the DCF Fair Hearing. The DCF Fair Hearing Officer shall rule on your motions and decides on the order of presentation of the case. DCF usually presents its case first.
During the DCF Fair Hearing, the Rules of Evidence do not apply. Evidence must be relevant and material to support DCF’s decision. The DCF Fair Hearing Officer is required to observe all statutorily protected privileges, such as the attorney-client privilege and the social worker-client privilege. The duty of DCF Fair Hearing Officer is to render an impartial and fair decision at the completion of the hearing. The oral testimony of witnesses at DCF hearings are taken under oath. All witnesses must be available to be examined by all parties. During the DCF Fair Hearing, documents and stipulations may also be admitted into evidence.
The DCF Fair Hearings are digitally recorded by the DCF Fair Hearing Officer as the official record. The official record consists of the documents, testimony admitted, pleadings, notices, and rulings or decisions by the DCF Fair Hearing Officer. The official record of the proceeding is obtainable at your own expense.
When you receive the Fair Hearing Officer final decision and you are unhappy with the decision you may file an appeal with the Superior Court.