While Massachusetts law provides ample rights to parents DCF rarely tells you about them.
Many parents reach out to me and usually say something like “I have no idea where to start, I am so lost…” Navigating this screwed up system of mental mind games and lawlessness can be challenging to say the least. Some parents don’t contact me until its much too late and usually, it’s because of the great shame and sudden distrust in people as a whole (imagine that, not trusting people easily after being subjected to legal terrorism?). While I cannot fit every single bit of information I have learned into a single article I can touch on the most important and basics which will give you more than a fighting chance. Please use this article to help anyone specifically dealing with DCF in Massachusetts. So whether DCF is knocking on your door now or if you have been targeted by them and are experiencing hopelessness with endless investigations – you can take serious control of the situation using the steps below.
You are entitled legally to copies of the 51A and 51B reports which caused DCF to contact you or your child.
While you may think you know what is written in these reports, you are missing key facts you need to fight DCF. If you do not have these make sure you get copies immediately (See “Case File” below for how to do this.). Even if you do not plan on meeting with DCF tell them over the phone you require copies of the allegations and by law, they must provide them to you. Tell them before they come to meet with you that you will require your own copy and just waving it around in your face is not sufficient (sometimes these reports magically change so get the copy as soon as possible before they can “edit” it!).
You will find vital information in these documents such as;
- Doctor notes
- School notes
- Police notes
- What time and where allegations were made
- Who made the allegations
- The exact allegations made – this is very important. If DCF has a report that your child has a black eye, you could show them your child does not, then if DCF demands to see things like food in the fridge or where the child sleeps you could counter with the fact there are no allegations that these needs are not being met.
- Inconsistencies which later could prove vital in court. For example, if the original allegation states your child was absent from school yet you later can provide evidence your child was in fact at school – this can demonstrate the inability of the reporting party to tell truthful facts and leads to credibility.
When DCF comes to the door BREATHE.
It can be absolutely terrifying and nerve-racking, I know. But you must keep composure. Read this to learn how to keep your cool under stress. Staying calm gives you the upper hand and allows your brain to function at a higher level. Getting upset, crying, yelling, etc. should be avoided at all costs. DCF will use this against you forever to claim you cannot function normally (which is unfair but that’s what they do) so do not under any circumstances loss your cool. Speak slowly and clearly. Think about what you will say before you say it. There is no rush in answering them, take as long as you need. Remember – you do not have to answer any questions you are not comfortable with. In fact, the less you say the better.
Keep answers short and sweet.
Do not get into long drawn out conversations. Do not discuss your life with these people, they are not here as your therapist. They do not care if you have been having a hard time, they are here for one reason alone – to take your child for good. Never ever forget that, even when dealing with a friendly social worker.
Do not allow DCF into your home.
They will create mountains out of a few dishes in the sink or an unswept floor. One time I was basically pressured into letting a whole gaggle of these monsters into my home. Well, one woman actually broke into my home and I found her walking around my hallway and thought she was an intruder (but that’s another story). She could not find a single problem to take a photo of with her handy camera. So what did she do? She wrote in her report (after breaking into my home) “Home had an odor which I could not determine the source, but it smelled bad.” Unreal. I could not prove that was untrue because we, unfortunately, can’t photograph smells, thus this woman got to write this down in her report like it was gospel. Instead, meet them at the door. Make sure your children are safe inside, meet them at the door, close the door behind you, and speak to them on your doorstep. If they demand to see your child and you are comfortable with that, have the child come outside, then go back inside. You are not hosting a dinner party, it’s your home, put your foot down and just say no.
Record! Record! Record!
You can trust and believe no matter how sympathetic the DCF worker seems, they are writing lies in their report. If they don’t well then they don’t have a cushy job with paid vacation. The DCF worker is here to “fix” you and steal your child. They do not believe good parents exist. So record. It is the single greatest equalizer. Stay calm and respectful and remember – you are also being recorded. If they say you cannot record them tell them this,
“I am recording for my own safety and my child’s safety, you do not have to be recorded, however, if you choose to continue engaging in conversation with me on my property you understand now you will be recorded and this recording will be used in a court of law.”
Period. That’s it. No one is forcing them to do anything, they can walk away. They will say things like “well then I can’t talk to you and I will call my legal team” but trust me they will then start talking about the allegations. Get it on tape. The second best thing about recording is your interaction will be short and sweet.
Remember DCF will lie and threaten you, so be prepared.
If the DCF worker comes to your door with anonymous allegation at some point they will say to you, “Well I will have to tell my supervisor you won’t [insert bizarre request here] and they will talk to the legal team.” They are using their last ditch effort to scare you into cooperating. If they had enough to take any sort of legal action they would have already done so.
You have the legal right to have either an attorney or a witness present when speaking to DCF.
A witness can be anyone you trust. It’s a great tool to use to make sure someone else hears and sees what DCF does. Also in my experience DCF usually treads more lightly with other people watching them and they are less likely to threaten you. If you need to reschedule a meeting to get a witness to be with you do it without apology.
Annonymous reports = Nothing.
An anonymous report is almost never enough to drag you into court. DCF will show up with one mission in mind – to turn up or create evidence against you since an anonymous report is worthless. If you think DCF will go to your child’s school to harass them write a letter to the school stating your child cannot be legally interviewed, looked at, or otherwise spoken to by an employee outside the school without your child’s attorney present. DCF may find a way around this but most schools seem to respect a child’s right to legal counsel. While you cannot order the school that your child cannot be interviewed at least you can provide legal oversight for your child.
If DCF substantiates an allegation against you-you should immediately ask for a Fair Hearing.
Do not think it’s not worth the effort, it absolutely is. The DCF worker will tell you emphatically that its “really not a big deal” but it is. It will prevent you from ever working again in certain fields, is visible to employers, and follows you for life, and can and will be used against you should DCF come again in the future. You have a very small window of time to request a hearing to challenge the findings so don’t wait. Send one letter to the DCF office handling your case and a copy to the regional office. The instructions will be written on the document stating whether or not the allegation was substantiated. Although DCF probably won’t reverse the allegations during the fair hearing, you can then appeal in court and potentially drag DCF info court to talk about all the illegal things they did to you and your family.
If DCF takes your child go to the 72-hour hearing.
If you think there is a chance DCF will be able to keep your child and you could lose at the 72-hour hearing ask your lawyer to attempt to get a conditional custody order. Conditional custody means you keep custody but you have to agree to do a list of crap DCF demands. Just make sure you look this list over carefully because if you do not do the crap in the order you could lose your child. This beats losing your child to the system while you prove your innocence and losing the bond with your child. Plus you can slowly chip away at DCF’s allegations over time while not sacrificing your child to a system where children under age five are 96% more likely to be abused or neglected in foster care than if left in their original homes. If DCF sends you a conditional custody order draft remember you can send a counter offer if you feel it is inappropriate.
If your child has been taken and you are concerned you will lose at the 72-Hearing, ask for conditional custody.
This may be a hard pill to swallow. But the truth is DCF and the court system are best buds and usually the court takes the social workers at their word with zero actual evidence (at least in the begining). So, if you are worried you may lose the hearing ask your lawyer to talk with DCF about “conditional custody” beforehand. Conditional custody means you will agree to sign a legal document which grants you custody temporarily as the case moves through the court system. Your child comes home and you get to be with them. However, the catch is you will need to agree to follow the stipulations of the order which will be things that DCF thinks need to be done to “fix” the situation. Your lawyer will come and show you the order and stipulations before the hearing goes in front of the judge, read it over carefully and discuss it with your attorney. You do not have to accept the order – you can send it back and request edits to the order as many times as you need to. It’s a time to bargain with DCF, make sure you haggle with them and get the best deal.
This is not a good time to get divorced.
DCF will almost always try to turn parents against each other. Usually, they will promise one parent sole custody but DCF really just wants to create chaos and screw both parents. Deal with your differences in therapy, not with DCF. If you decide to turn on the other parent odds are the parent being screwed will lash out and this will cause much harm to your case. Wait and deal with these issues later if possible. If you are in an abusive situation you absolutely must leave the abusing party, for your kid’s sake.
If DCF says you need services or offers you services – get your own.
Do them on your own privately and tell them you are doing so. Do not go to a DCF therapist who gets 99.99% or their business from DCF and expects a good outcome. Get your own therapy, doctor, parenting classes, etc. Give yourself a fighting chance. If you don”t understand why you need to do a service ask for a detailed explanation in writing so you “can understand the concerns better”. If the worker can”t explain why you need to do something then you should not be doing it. Understand if you get locked into an endless pattern of jumping through the hoops of DCF’s paid off gang of doctors and therapists your case will go on for years as you’re are slowly broken down into a puddle of your former self.
The Ombudsman is worthless unless you need a few laughs about the state of the system.
Call them and complain, but they will not do anything. Their job is not to “resolve conflicts” it is to listen to your complaints then tell you that you don’t “understand” and you need to do whatever the social worker says to do. If you tell the Ombudsman that DCF broke a law, made a mistake, etc they will not help you but they will immediately call DCF and tell the social workers that you called and complained to them. If you want to call someone call the Attorney Generals Office or file a civil rights complaint online.
If your child was taken by a hospital or from a doctors report – get the medical records.
Just like DCF leaves pieces of information in their casework that can help your case so do doctors and hospitals. Get the full medical record of your child as quickly as possible. When you ask for the record be sure to write on the paperwork that you are requesting the entire record including social worker notes, doctor notes, nursing notes, medications are given, treatments, the discharge summary, and summary notes. If you check off the documents are for legal purposes it may take longer to be sent to you.
Get your DCF case file!
You are entitled to at any time view your entire DCF case file. You will not believe the treasure trove of information in your file.
DCF will not offer this to you, they won”t tell you about this, they will not give it to your lawyer… because they do not want you to have it.
They do not expect you to be smart enough to obtain it. I won my case based on what was uncovered in my case file. Get yours as soon as possible. It costs nothing and takes 30 days to arrive, so request it today. To obtain your case file follow these steps;
- Go to the DCF office handling your case in person during business hours
- Go to the clerk at the front desk and tell them you wish to get a copy of your entire case file record
- Show the clerk your license or ID to verify your identity
- Fill out the form, check off each box, then write on the paper somewhere “REQUESTING ENTIRE CASE FILE INCLUDING 51A/B REPORTS, SOCIAL WORKER NOTES, AND OTHER DOCUMENTS OBTAINED BY THE DEPARTMENT.”
- Hand the completed form back to the clerk.
- Ask for a receipt of your request for the case file.
- By law, you will be supplied with case file by mail (some offices allow you to pick up the file) within 30 business days.
Plan, Strategise, Conquer.
I try to explain to every parent I talk with that you need to commit to this for the long haul. If you end up in court you are looking at at least 6 months until pre-trial (the point where DCF will decide if its case is strong enough to go to trial). Get the child’s lawyers on your side, charm the crap out of them and show them how loving of a parent you truly are. This is a marathon of sorts. It cannot be won if you are constantly worrying or on the verge of losing your mind. The sadness and deep shame which comes with becoming a target of DCF can be overwhelming. Allow yourself time to cry. Allow yourself time to feel your emotions. Communicate with your loved ones and good friends, let them help hold you up when you are low on personal strength. Never allow yourself to think “What if they take my child forever?” Do not miss visits, be that thorn n DCF’s side and go to each and every one. If the foster family keeps canceling or is consistently late that is a violation of a court order and you should alert your lawyer. Do NOT allow DCF to sever your bond with your child, they want this to happen so DO NOT give it to them. Once you get all the previous steps done on this list you then need to start planning. How will you win this sick twisted game? One sure way is to comply without complying. What I mean by this is let DCF think you are playing their game, if they say you need counseling say “ok sure.” But do it on our own, privately. If DCF says “Sign this release” say “Ok, sure, but after my lawyer reads it.” If you are struggling to not scream at the piece human garbage that kidnapped your innocent child while you visit them during supervised visits at the DCF office which smells like feces and looks like a prison; focus on your child and loving them and block the idiot writing notes out – they just do not matter. Just be with your child and remind them how much you love them.
Have faith in your abilities and how clever you are.
Sometimes in life, we only truly realize how strong we are when we are challenged by true evil. Only then do we see the truth of God and the blessing that is our children. Know that the Lord is by your side, and he will defeat the evil and reunite your family. You will have good days, bad days, sad days, angry days – and that’s okay. There have been countless parents in the same circumstances you are in right now. You are not alone. You are not broken, worthless, or a bad person and your children love you. Accept that some things may be out of your control, but God is always watching over you and your children in these moments protecting and guiding you – just find the disciple let him do this! And above all things always believe in yourself – your children are counting on that.