Skip to main content

How long can a 51a stay open in Massachusetts

Leominster, MA |

an anonomus call was made to the dcf that I was neglecting my son not both of my kids but only one and that I was smoking pot with him the agent interviewed the doctors,dentist school, and all was good but he wants a drug test from both of us there are no signs of neglect or anything does he have a supported case

Attorney Answers 4


I am sorry that you are going through this, an investigation can stay open until they resolve it if there is reaonable cause, you should not be concerned about the time, either there is reason or there is not. take care.

Legal disclaimer: The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of Massachusetts. Responses are based solely on Massachusetts law unless stated otherwise.

Mark as helpful

8 found this helpful

3 lawyers agree


I agree with Attorney Lewis. When a 51a is called in DCF will do an investigation and screen it in or screen it out. If it is screened in then it can stay open until everything is resolved. DCF is merely doing its due diligence in making sure there truly is no abuse or neglect of minors.

Melissa Levine is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed by Attorney Levine answering your question. It is advisable to consult with an attorney about your personal legal concerns.

Mark as helpful

4 lawyers agree

1 comment

Michael L Rich

Michael L Rich


Not really. Screening is the DCF process of determining whether a call falls within their areas of concern; e.g., abuse or neglect by a caretaker. Screening can happen without the parent even knowing about it. Under DCF's newish Integrated Case Practice Model (, a case can be screened in for initial assessment rather than investigation. If it is an investigation, the statute requires that it be begun in 2 business days of initial contact and completed within 15 days ( It is unclear what time limits apply if it is extended screening. Once a 51A is supported after an investigation or an initial assessment is concluded, DCF can either ask the parent to engage in services or close the case. Service plans are limited to 6 months duration at a time. The parent should get a copy of the 51A report pursuant to the procedure at 110 CMR 12.08 ( and consult with an experienced DCF defense attorney about the risks of not complying with the DCF request or complying with it.


Usually, as I recall, it is about 60 days after which it is either
substantiated or not.

What is the problem?

Does this answer your question?

henry lebensbaum, esq.

300 Brickstone Square, Ste 201

Andover, ma 01810

(978) 749-3606

420 Common Street, Ste 101

Lawrence, MA 01840

(978) 685-2690

Criminal Law (all misdemeanor & felonies in District and Superior Courts), Drunk Driving and Drug arrests, Sex Offenses, SORB, Crimes involving Violence or Theft, Domestic (Divorce, Child Custody, Alimony and Child Support) and Family Law (Modification, Contempts & Paternity), Juvenile Law, Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders, Business Law, Personal Injury claims, Probate Law (Guardianships, Conservatorships & Estate Administration) and Legal Malpractice. For these and other areas, contact me. NOTE: This preceding message DOES NOT create an attorney-client relationship. It is not a protected or confidential communication. The statements made herein are not to be interpreted as representations or warranties of any kind. No reliance should be placed on the statements made herein. It is recommended that the recipient(s) should undertake their own research to reach their own opinion. The writer does not accept professional responsibility on this matter. TO CREATE an attorney-client relationship REQUIRES a signed retainer/fee agreement along with a retainer fee that must be received by my office.

Mark as helpful


At this point it appears that DCF is awaiting drug test results from you and your son, and the case will remain open until the results are analyzed and you have completed any other tasks they have requested. If you feel the drug test results are not going to be in your favor I suggest consulting with an attorney experienced with DCF cases.

This is not legal advice until I am retained and have reviewed all facts about your situation.

Mark as helpful