DCF is only supposed to remove children "If the department has reasonable cause to believe a child's health or safety is in immediate danger from abuse or neglect," and "reasonable cause to believe that the removal is necessary to protect the child from abuse or neglect." The supposed accountability is that once DCF removes a child pursuant to that section, it is required to "make a written report stating the reasons for such removal and shall file a care and protection petition under section 24 on the next court day." Then, "If the court is satisfied after the petitioner testifies under oath that there is reasonable cause to believe that: (i) the child is suffering from serious abuse or neglect or is in immediate danger of serious abuse or neglect; and (ii) that immediate removal of the child is necessary to protect the child from serious abuse or neglect, the court may issue an emergency order transferring custody of the child for up to 72 hours to the department."
At the end of the 72 hours, the parents are entitled to a hearing at which "the court shall determine whether temporary custody shall continue beyond 72 hours" and "shall also consider" whether "the continuation of the child in his home is contrary to his best interests and shall determine whether the department or its agent, as appropriate, has made reasonable efforts prior to the placement of a child with the department to prevent or eliminate the need for removal from the home."
The parents and the children should have had attorneys appointed to represent them at that hearing.
There is also supposed to be accountability in the parents' right to file a request for fair hearing if an abuse or neglect report has been "supported" against them.
And finally, in a couple of cases from other parts of the country, courts have awarded parents monetary compensation when child protective service agencies have removed children based on purposely false affidavits and have otherwise violated their own regulations.
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I have yet to encounter one case where a child was not traumatized by being removed.
DCF can be sued if they go overboard, that is when they will be held accountable in any particular case.
Providing general answers are meant to help the poster to understand some complex legal concepts and in no way creates an attorney-client relationship.
Attorney Rich gave you a great overview of the procedure and standards for a DCF case of removal. Every agency has a way to be held accountable, though I think the a child protection agency tends to receive the benefit of the doubt when acting to protect children. The best place to fight the removal is in court, with counsel, and to get the kids back. After that, worry about chasing DCF and complaining up above.
Christine G. DeBernardis, Esq. (866) 308-3086 (603) 373-0545 NH (978) 777-5393 MA www.cgdlegal.com This is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should speak to an attorney for further information.
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