From time to time, tragic stories about children suffering neglect and/or abuse at the hands of their parents make the front page of the newspaper or headline news on TV. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the Massachusetts agency charged with the responsibility of protecting children from abuse and neglect. In conjunction with this responsibility comes the power to investigate allegations of neglect and abuse of children by their caretakers or parents, and to seek, by court order, the authority to remove children from the care and custody of their parents and place them in foster care.
While DCF does important and valuable work, it unquestionably makes its share of mistakes. Would you know what to do or where to turn if an anonymous report of abuse or neglect of your children was filed against you? Even worse, what if DCF filed a petition in court alleging your unfitness to care for your children? Parents confront this nightmare every day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
I have firsthand experience with DCF, having represented DCF in child custody cases for many years in Boston. Recently, I was able to utilize my experience to help a mother regain custody of her daughter, who had been placed in foster care, after a ten year battle with DCF. When I became involved, the child had been out of her mother’s care for over five years and DCF was making plans to find a long-term guardian, rather than reunite my client with her daughter. Despite an established bond between my client and her daughter, and my client’s willingness to comply with everything asked of her, DCF portrayed my client as incapable of meeting the emotional and physical needs of her daughter.
The reality was DCF never gave her a chance to show that she was fit to parent her daughter and capable of meeting her daughter’s needs. I challenged DCF’s outrageous conduct and petitioned the court for review of the case. Ultimately, with a concrete plan in place, my client proved the naysayers wrong. Her daughter returned home with the blessing of DCF and the case was dismissed from court.