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4 ways the state tries to help with abuse, neglect, and discipline in your family

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed February, 2021

The state gets involved with your family through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Courts. DCF is the main state agency that gets involved with your children’s welfare.

Their primary responsibility is “to keep children and youth safe from abuse and neglect.”

DCF and the courts can get involved with your children’s well-being in these ways:

  1. A parent, guardian, or school can file a Children Requiring Assistance (CRA) petition in the Juvenile Court. The Child Requiring Assistance law helps parents and schools get services to help discipline very difficult children.
    See Asking the Juvenile Court for help with your child
  2. A person reports suspected abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
    See How does the Department of Children and Families (DCF)  find out about child abuse and neglect?
  3. A person, usually a DCF social worker, files a Care and Protection petition in the Juvenile Court and asks a judge to order that your child be removed from your home because the child is in need of “care and protection.”
    See Can DCF take my child?
  4. You and the other parent have a custody case in the Probate and Family Court and DCF has been involved with your family.

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