Does DCF always go to Court if a 51A is supported?
No. Most times if a 51A is supported or what is called a 51B, DCF may seek to offer services to the family rather than going to court to try and take custody. You would be advised to determine whether you would want to file a Fair Hearing Appeal and after the 51A is supported if they are looking to do an assessment to determine what needs services. The family can determine whether or not you want to sign the service plan, work with DCF or work with them in part and not impart. It is important to either speak to an attorney or least an advocate or someone who can explain what rights you have if DCF supports a 51A.
Is there a higher amount of Care and Protections Cases or DCF Taking Custody of Children?
In the last several years there has been a significant rise in care and protection cases. There are different statistics in Massachusetts, but by nearly all statistical readings it would show that there is a substantially higher enforcement of care and protections. It appears that there are two major reasons for this.
One of them is, is the opiate epidemic that has occurred and bringing the number of children that are now in foster care.
A second reason appears to be that DCF enforcing cases and being more involved more often. This is complicated to be able to attribute, but it seems like after a variety of well publicized tragedies that DCF is airing on the side of removing children or being more involved in parents lives then they were in the past.
It does appear that in large part that these are the two main reasons why there is a significant increase in care and protections and children in foster care over the last several years.