If a child is removed from the parents but there has not yet been a 72-hour hearing, where does the child live?
Until the 72-hour hearing is held, concluded and the judge makes a decision, DCF is the one that usually decides where the child lives. DCF has the option of placing the child with a relative and that is considered the first choice if one is available. Another choice is a foster home, a residential group home; sometimes it can be with a parent if there are a return placement with the parent if there are conditions in place.
There is something called an “Initial Hearing” where the Judge decides prior to the 72-hour hearing and as long as DCF has custody, DCF is the one that makes that decision.
What Happens after a 72-Hour Hearing Concludes?
In Massachusetts the Judge will determine whether or not DCF continues to have custody or if a parent or a third party has custody, but after the 72-hour hearing and occasionally before the Judge will appoint a Court Investigator. A Court Investigator is not somebody that is part of DCF nor is representing any of the parties in the case but works for the case. Similar to a Guardian ad Litem in Probate Court who will interview the parties along with collateral’s, review records and make some recommendations.
DCF will also work on an action plan that is aimed at reunifying the family or dealing with issues that led to the care and protection being filed. Parents want to be careful whether to sign the action plan or not or make proposed changes to the this.
The court will schedule a Motion Status date along with a Pre-trial date and sometimes courts will also schedule the trial date as well. The standard is whether the parents are currently unfit to raise the child and who shall have custody of that child.