Tuesday, June 6, 2017

DCF Law, Regulations, and Policies

Mass.gov is a great resource

Check out its "Laws by Source" page http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-source/. To find DCF law and regulations, look under the "Massachusetts" heading. Sources of Mass. law are listed in their order of priority - each one of the links there goes to a category of law. 

Regulations or Policies

Note that "Regulations" are listed there but policies aren't. That is because regulations have the force of law once they are published in the Massachusetts Record for public comment, then amended based on the comments, then approved by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, then published in the Code of Mass. Regulations. But policies do not.

Statutes relating to DCF

DCF has an enabling statute, which is Mass. General Laws chapter 18B. Sections 2, 3, and 4 tell them what they can and have to do. Then, Mass. General Laws chapter 119 is about child protection law. It is where the "51A report" and "51B investigation" get their names; i.e., sections 51A and 51B of chapter 119. There are other statutes in which DCF is involved, but these are the two main ones for purposes of this article.

DCF Regulations

DCF and all state agencies are required to write regulations that expand on and provide specifics about the statutes. You can find DCF regulations at the Title 110 link following the "Code of Massachusetts Regulations" link at the Trial Court Law Libraries "Laws by Source" page to the "Alphabetical list" or the "100-199" to "110"and at DCF's Regulations and Policies page

DCF Policies

Most agencies, DCF included, have policies, which further flesh out the regulations and are what their people are trained to follow. DCF just (August 17, 2017) linked a slew of their policies on their website

Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, MCLE®, periodically publishes a manual with a CD including then current DCF policies and the Massachusetts Juvenile Bar Association recently developed a thumb drive that included the regulations and policies, amongst other things; but I am not sure if it is available for purchase. Once you know the name and number of any DCF policy, you can have them emailed or faxed to you by the Mass. Trial Court Law Libraries using their Document Delivery Service.


At the DCF Regulations and Policies page you will notice that there are also "Proposed Amendments" to a few regulations and a few policies. But, the proposed amendments to effectuate the, most relevant, 2/28/2016 "Protective Intake Policy" and the 2/17/2017 "Family Assessment and Action Planning Policy" are not there. Those regulations, though they have already been written and open to public comment, for some stupid reason, are published at a link in the "News" section of the top page of DCF's website - "Regulation Review: Proposed Changes to DCF Regulations". They seem to be pretty close to final so I don't know what they are waiting for to add them to the actual Regulations page.

Check with your attorney

If you are involved in an investigation, assessment, or case with DCF, always talk to your attorney about which constitutional provisions, statutes, regulations, court rules, or policies affect your case. Feel free to use the Web Resources page of my main website for the links in this article and others, which you may find useful in your DCF or child protection law research. Read my Initial Consultation Policies page if you need to consider retaining counsel for your DCF matter.


MLR said...

Apparently Mass.gov including Mass.gov/DCF has been substantially prettied up. A quick look to find what's under some of the new headings was disappointing. The menus that got me to the pages I most often use are not there.

MLR said...

And now the prettying up has made it less great resource.

There is no longer a DCF Policies and Regulations page.

There is a DCF Policies page - https://www.mass.gov/dcf-policies - which actually has policies on it.

But the regulations are no longer accessible at mass.gov/DCF.
Instead there is a link to the State Publications and Regulations Division - http://www.sec.state.ma.us/spr/spridx.htm.

The "About the Code of Massachusetts Regulations" link there takes you here - http://www.sec.state.ma.us/spr/sprcode/infocode.htm, where you can read:
"The Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) is the complete set of Administrative Law (regulations) promulgated by state agencies pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (M.G.L. c. 30A). Individual agency regulations in print form are available at the State Bookstore.
"New Subscription Service
"The Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) can also be accessed online.
"Subscribe now."

Here is the "Subscribe now." URL - http://www.sec.state.ma.us/reg_pub/login.aspx, where you can read:
"Welcome to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Code of Massachusetts Regulations Database.
"This new service allows users to access the entire code of regulations at the touch of a button. You can search a regulation by agency name or by a word or phrase. There is also an additional feature which allows the subscriber to pick three topics (ex. day care) that the system will automatically email you whenever there is a change to that particular regulation.
"This subscription service is available for an introductory rate of $110 (including an expedited fee of $9) per year. Please click the 'Subscribe Now' link above if you wish to subscribe.
"It is important to note that these regulations are unofficial and for informational use. The official version of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) is available in print form at the State Bookstore "

NOTE paying for the subscription still gets you access only to an UNOFFICIAL version.
You can still access the unofficial online version for free from the Trial Court Law Libraries here -

MLR said...

And now this page http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dcf/dcf-regulation-review.html is gone and there does not seem to be an equivalent on the new Mass.gov DCF pages: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-department-of-children-families.

As I reported in an earlier comment, the DCF Regulations no longer appear on this page http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/laws-regs/dcf/regulations-and-policies.html. And now that page no longer exists. While they did add "Additional Resources: Application security for contracted providers, Memorandum of understanding between the Department of Youth Services and the DCF" to this page https://www.mass.gov/dcf-policies. The regulations and policies page no longer exists and it's replacement is no longer the excellent resource it used to be.

MLR said...

YAY - Mass.gov put a "View DCF Regulations" link on the DCF Policies page - https://www.mass.gov/dcf-policies. It goes to the Trial Court Law Libraries 110 CMR page. And the individual regulations are in searchable, copyable to clipboard pdf.