Care & Protection
How does care and protection get initiated?
A care and protection matter generally begins upon the filing of a 51A which is a document where it is alleged that the abuse or neglect of a child has occurred. This is usually filed by a social worker or a mandated reporter such as a teacher or a nurse.
Who investigates a care and protection filing?
The Department of Children & Families (DCF) then investigates the matter and determines whether or not to file a care & protection case at the juvenile court. Sometimes, DCF decides to make an emergency removal of the child where temporary custody is immediately obtained by DCF.
What are the parents rights?
The parents are entitled to an emergency temporary custody hearing within 72 hours. However, due to court schedules, it usually takes longer to actually get that hearing.
Once that hearing begins, evidence is presented by DCF, the parents’ attorney, and the child’s attorney. The court is required to decide, based on the evidence presented, whether the child has suffered serious abuse or neglect or is in eminent risk of serious abuse and neglect.
Who decides custody in a care and protection case?
If so, the Judge then decides whether DCF should keep temporary custody or if custody should be returned to the parents or a third party nominated by the parents.
If DCF retains custody, the case proceeds to Pre-Trial Conference and eventually Trial, where the court determines parental fitness. If the parent or parents are found unfit, further proceedings could result whereby the parental rights of the parents could be terminated.
Paul Santos Law