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What happens if the Department of Children and Families (DCF) opens a case for my family?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed June 2021

After DCF investigates a report of abuse or neglect they might open a case for your family. They want to be sure your child’s needs are met, and your family gets the services you need to keep your child safe.

When DCF opens a case for your family, they send a social worker to talk with you. The social worker asks you about:

  • your strengths as a parent, and
  • the kinds of support you need to help you and your children.

This social worker is not the same person who conducted the investigation.

Together, you and the social worker will decide on "Family Action Plan" or an “Action Plan” for your family. A DCF Action Plan lists the services DCF will provide you and your children. It also describes the things you, your children, and DCF need to do to help your family.

The purpose of the plan is to strengthen your family and keep your children safe. Get involved in making your Action Plan. This is important.

Only sign the plan if you are sure you understand it and you agree to everything in it:

  • Make sure the action plan lists any services you already get.
  • Only agree with services you can actually participate in.
  • If you do not agree with a service, write that down on the form before you sign it.

How can an Action Plan help my family?

The DCF social worker will help you plan the things you need to make your family stronger.

Sometimes the Action Plan is just a statement that says you will ask your friends and relatives for their support to help you through this difficult time. And it lists community resources, you can use like food pantries and child care.

DCF can also connect you to supportive services in your community like parent aides, family advocates, family nurturing programs, domestic violence services, mental health services, substance use services, housing stabilization services, counseling, and programs for pregnant teens. DCF will refer you to some of these services. If your worker does not make a referral ask your worker how they expect you to get the service.

If you have a child younger than 3 years old, your plan will include a referral to an “early intervention program” through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. These programs help you find out if your child has any special needs. If your child does have special needs, the programs provide your child with the services they may need.

DCF tries to link your family to services that share your cultural background and language.

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