What We Do
Lawyers in CPCS’s Children and Family Law Division (CAFL) represent children and parents in cases in which the Department of Children and Families (DCF) removes children from their homes because of claims of neglect or abuse. These cases are called care and protection (C&P) cases or termination of parental rights cases. CAFL also provides lawyers to children and parents in child requiring assistance (CRA) cases. Some CRA cases involve parents asking the Juvenile Court for help with challenges at home; others involve children who are truant from school or who run away from home. We also represent children and parents in contested guardianship cases.
Most CAFL lawyers are private attorneys. Others are CPCS staff members, who work in partnership with CPCS staff social workers. Whether private or staff, our lawyers protect the rights of parents and children to remain together whenever possible and their right to be reunited quickly when children are removed from their homes. We also work to ensure that DCF and other agencies provide our parent and child clients the support and services they need and to which they are entitled under the law.
CAFL’s legal advocacy plays a critical role in cases that affect families. For a parent involved in a C&P case, having a skilled CAFL lawyer may mean the difference between the family’s reunification and the termination of parental rights – the “death penalty of family law.” For a teenager who is the subject of a truancy case, CAFL’s advocacy may secure the special education services that enable the client to succeed in school and avoid being placed in a foster home. For siblings looking for stability after the court has freed them for adoption, CAFL will fight to ensure that they are provided a permanent home – one that allows them to stay together.
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DCF New Family Assessment and Action Planning Policies April 13, 2017 - DCF recently released their new Family Assessment and Action Planning Policy, Policy#2017-01, effective 02/06/2017. Some notable provisions include: The term “Action Plan” replaces “Service Plan” and includes the following sections: areas of focus based on the Department’s assessment of parental capacity and child safety, observable changes, and the actions/tasks/services/supports identified to address the observable changes […] ESSA Creates New Federal Rights for Foster Children to School Stability December 14, 2016 - In December 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Two parts of the amended ESEA are particularly relevant to children in foster care: Title I, which now provides school stability rights for children in foster care, and Title IX, the McKinney-Vento […] DCF Rewriting Its Regulations December 14, 2016 - DCF is in the process of rewriting its regulations. The agency anticipates submitting between one and four sets of proposed changes to the Secretary of State every two weeks during the next several months. In total, they are planning on publishing 19 new or revised CMR sections. CPCS will be submitting comments on each section, and […] Amy Karp named one of this year’s recipients of the MCLE Scholar-Mentor Award October 6, 2016 - Congratulations to CAFL Training Director, Amy Karp! She has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Scholar-Mentor Award, which is presented to members of the Bar who have “demonstrated leadership through long-term service to MCLE, excellence in teaching or writing, and creativity in the suggestion of program and […] State holds first “Reunification Day Celebration” in Berkshire County July 21, 2016 - On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, for the first time in Berkshire County, local agencies hosted a Reunification Day Celebration to recognize the reunification of families after separation through the child welfare system. This event was hosted by Berkshire Children & Families, the Department of Children and Families, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services – […] CAFL Announces the Establishment of the Margaret Winchester Award February 2, 2016 - We are pleased to announce the establishment of the Margaret Winchester Award to honor excellence in child welfare advocacy, in recognition of Margaret’s long-lasting and deep commitment to her CAFL clients and helping others provide high quality representation. From the moment she took on the challenge of representing CAFL clients until her passing in 2015, […] Boston Globe Letters: “Can we get a grip on protecting kids?” October 13, 2015 - On October 10, the Boston Globe published several letters to the editor regarding DCF and the courts, including the following one from Deputy Chief Counsel Michael Dsida: GOVERNOR BAKER has rightly urged the state Department of Children and Families to keep children safe (“Baker moves to ‘keep kids safe,’ ” Page A1, Sept. 28). DCF, however, must […] Family Resource Centers Now Open September 21, 2015 - The Family Resource Centers (FRCs) of Massachusetts is a statewide network providing community-based, multi-cultural parenting programs, support groups, early childhood services, information and referral resources and education for families whose children range in age from birth to 18. Supported through funding from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the […] In Memoriam: Margaret T. (Clapp) Winchester June 19, 2015 - September 14, 1953 – June 16, 2015 With sadness, we are writing to let you know that Margaret Winchester, the Attorney in Charge for CAFL’s trial office in Worcester, passed away on Tuesday afternoon. For more than 25 years, Margaret was a tireless and courageous champion for children and parents whose rights to family integrity […] Joan Mikula To Lead Department Of Mental Health May 25, 2015 - BOSTON — On May 11, EOHHS Secretary, Marylou Sudders, announced that Joan Mikula, has been promoted to serve as Commissioner of Mental Health; a position she has held on an interim basis since March. Mikula has worked for the Department since 1985, serving as Deputy and Assistant Commissioner of Child and Adolescent Services. She has […]