What is a DCF Emergency Removal in Massachusetts?

An “emergency removal” by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (MA DCF) is when MA DCF removes a child from the home due to emergency circumstances. This is the first step to a Care and Protection case.

Emergency removals occur when DCF has “reasonable cause to believe” that removing the child from the home will protect the child from any abuse or neglect. 

MA DCF will take your children away from you without a search warrant should they regard the situation an emergency. Emergency removals happen without any prior notice or warning. Often, MA DCF social workers come to remove a child under an emergency removal in the middle of the night.

When a child is taken into DCF’s temporary custody, MA DCF will write a report which contains the reasons why the child was removed. MA DCF will also file a petition for Care and Protection of the child in this circumstance.


What Rights are Violated During Emergency Removals? 

A emergency removals are an involuntary separation between the children and their caretakers. It violates both, the parent’s and the child’s rights. The child’s rights to safety, and their relationship with their parents, siblings, and community are put at risk. A child’s emotional and mental stability is also at risk of violation as a result of an emergency removal. 

A parent’s rights during emergency removals are also violated. When a parent loses custody of their child after emergency removal, they may lose their right to care for and control their child.

During emergency removals, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (MA DCF) takes “temporary” custody of the child. This can end up seeming like a permanent situation, as parents may have to wait months or even years before they get custody of their child back.

Remember, emergency removals do not result in a “termination of parental rights”. That means the parent can still regain custody of their child. When MA DCF files for a termination of parental rights, it means they are trying to take away custody forever.


 Kevin Seaver is a trusted MA DCF Attorney Specializing in DCF Law since 1991.