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Asking the Juvenile Court for help with your child

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed February, 2021

When you just cannot find another way, the Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) law allows you or the school to ask for the court's help.

This law allows parents and schools to ask the Juvenile Court for help with very difficult children. These children find it very hard to obey their parents and school rules. The Court can:

  • refer your child to services,
  • help you get services for your child,
  • order your child to use the services, and
  • place your child with another qualified adult, the Department of Children and Families, child-care agency or organization.

The Juvenile Court can also help children who have been sexually exploited.

Parents, schools, and legal guardians can file a CRA application. So can anyone who has legal custody of your child.

You might decide to file a CRA if:

  • You have tried everything you can think of, and
  • You still feel your child is out of control.

Some people may tell you to file a CRA because your child breaks rules, or is always running away from home. If someone gives you this advice, they think your child is really hard to handle. The person who tells you to file a CRA might be a teacher, school principal, or a police officer. But when it comes to your child, you are the best person to decide what you need to do.

Think carefully before you file a CRA application.

Important

  • A CRA can lead to a change in custody. The judge can decide to take your child from your home.
  • Also, if you file a CRA, the court gives your child a lawyer. The lawyer works for your child. You and your child may not agree. And the lawyer is for your child, not you.

If you file a CRA application and the judge is making a decision about custody, you also have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer and the judge is deciding custody, the court will appoint one for you. You can always hire your own lawyer, if you can afford it.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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