Child Welfare

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Family (DCF, formerly known as DSS) is the primary child welfare agency in Massachusetts. DCF is charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect while also strengthening families. Successfully achieving both is difficult but hugely important for the future of children and youth involved with DCF.

Children, youth and families become involved with DCF in a multitude of different ways and for several varying reasons. A 51A may be filed by a mandatory reporter such as a teacher, coach, child care worker, counselor, or other professional who works with children and youth. A 51A is a report filed due to an allegation of abuse or neglect. DCF might also become involved through the court system or the family might seek services due to difficulties with a child or youth. DCF's primary function is child protection. However, DCF also attempts to build family strengths and capacity so that children do not become re-involved with DCF after a case is closed.

DCF provides many services to children and families including: adolescent services, adoption/guardianship, domestic violence, foster care, housing stabilization, family support and stabilization, and out of home placements. The agency states its core mandate is to strengthen families. This core mandate is supported by six core values: 1) Child-driven, 2) family-centered, 3) community-focused, 4) strength-based, 5) a commitment to diversity and cultural competence, and 6) a commitment to continuous learning. The core values contribute to DCF's goal of permanency for every child which is achieved by finding a legally permanent, nurturing family for every child stressing the stability and continuity of relationships which promote children's growth. Permanency planning is unique to each child and can be centered on family strengthening if the child remains in the home, family reunification, adoption from foster care, guardianship, or permanent placements with relatives. The child's immediate biological family is the primary choice for permanency. DCF notes that 85% of children receiving services remain in their homes.

After experiencing several years of declines, the number of children under age 18 involved with DCF increased in FY 2013. In March 2013, there were 20,771 open cases involving 34,217 children. These numbers have continued to increase with 26,291 open cases involving 44,962 children in September of 2014.

Are you an expert in this area? Do you know someone who is? Let us know so that together we can make this the most up-to-date, useful resource on children's programs in Massachusetts.