What to do if DCF comes to your door
Few things are more terrifying than to look out your front door and see angry police officers and social workers on your porch, demanding to be let in to see your children.
If the police and social workers do not have a warrant or a custody order, and they cannot justify some emergency, then you can tell them that they cannot come in.
You will usually not know why DCF agents are on your front porch, and they will say or do almost anything to get you to allow them in. DON'T DO IT. Better to risk all the emotional and physical stress of resisting them, than to let them in your home, as you will see below.
One of the favorite tactics of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF - Formerly Dept. Of Social Services) is to come on Friday night to take children from homes. They have special after-hours units which roam around like devouring monsters and remove children in the nighttime. This accomplishes several things. You are not expecting it, so it strikes more terror and fear. If they get your children, then they then get to keep them all weekend, and to obtain disclosures about abuse or neglect for court purposes, often using mind altering drugs to do so. And, you can't do anything about it on Friday night, since the court is closed.
You may have an inkling that the people on your porch want your child. Or you may not know why they are there. Either way, you have the best chance of keeping your family intact if you follow the instructions in this material. They are not foolproof, but they have helped many families to make the intruders go away.
The first rule is SHUT UP, except to discuss the few things that are set forth below. Tell them nothing. You do not owe government agents any answers. Just like on the cop shows, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Count on it. There are several other things you must do, as well:
Get a recording device into action immediately.
Don't let them into your home. All discussions should be through a window, or at least outside. Do not let them into your home without a warrant.
Figure out who you are dealing with. Are they really social workers and police?
Find out what the allegations are. Federal law now requires them to tell you.
Next you have to figure out what their real authority is right now in this situation. Do they have a warrant, a court order for custody, a mysterious document called a "precept", or are they acting on emergency powers that they have decided to exercise. In many cases, the documents they have only demand you come to court at a later date, so you don't have to let them in.
Finally, based on all the circumstances, you must figure out what to do. Can you hold them off, make them go away, escape, or do you have to let them in?
All of this is explained in much more detail below.
1. SHUT UP. SHUT UP NOW!!
Rule One is SHUT UP. In fact, it's really Rules 2, 3, and 4 as well.
You have the constitutional right to remain silent. Use it.
Never talk to a government agent when you don't have to, and you rarely have to. The only thing you need to talk about is whether the government agents can come into your house, by finding out what authority they may have to do so. You have nothing more to discuss.
If you choose not to remain silent, every word spoken by you can and will be used against you, just like the cop dramas on TV. Police, courts, and social workers operate on information. If they don't have any information, they can't interfere in your life as easily.
But I have nothing to hide.
Oh Yes, you do. It's called your privacy. Remember, they're not looking for the truth and don't care about the truth. They want to take your children. And they are not neutral, disinterested parties. They have an agenda, and they are looking for any word they can get out of your mouth, and they will turn it against you, no matter what you intended. Jesus had nothing to hide either, and look what they did at a trial with His words.
Private information (like your name, your address, the names of your children, their ages, their school records) cannot be obtained without a subpoena or a search warrant, or unless you give it up voluntarily. This information is protected by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U. S. Constitution and Article XIV of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, which is the first part of the Massachusetts Constitution.
The police officers and social workers will do everything in their power to get you to talk. They are legally allowed to try to get you to waive your right to remain silent, and they don't have to tell you they are doing it. If you stand out on your porch, or worse, let them in your house, and tell them who is in your home, and give them private information about your children, you will be giving them the ammunition to help them take your children from you. Don't do it.
So, once again. SHUT UP. If they get you to talk, they can and will use it against you. So, don't do it. Bite back on your tongue until it bleeds if you have to.
But, but, but...
Some people just cannot seem to help blabbing everything they know to government officials. This happens a lot in divorce situations, or where there is family strife. That is an even worse time to do it, because they will exploit it to the hilt. If you talk about your problems, you will regret it, and how.
Remember Martha Stewart, who talked to government agents about her stock holdings, and spent most of a year in jail. She did not have to do talk at all, and could afford the most expensive lawyer in the world, but she couldn't or wouldn't shut up. Don't be like Martha, unless you want to see your kids taken away.
2. Get Recording NOW, and Tell Them You Are Doing it.
An immediate priority if confronted by government agents is to get some sort of recording device going right away. Get someone in your family to fetch one quickly, and get it into action. If you are alone, excuse yourself and get one. Use a video camera preferably, but an audio tape recorder is better than nothing.
If you record the statements of another person in Massachusetts, you MUST MUST MUST state you are doing so, especially if it involves government agents. Otherwise, you may be liable for criminal and civil penalties under Mass. Gen. Laws. Chapter 272, Section 99. Video recording only, with no audio, requires no notice. However, audio is usually very helpful to have.
Make this announcement through the window (see Rule 3 below), and do not open the door.
This will give you several advantages. First, you have a record of everything that was said and done, and it will capture any primal cruelty on the part of your visitors that can be used later in court. They cannot then lie about you being violent or angry, if you were not. (And you better not be.) Remember, whatever you say, you are potentially talking to the judge! Be mindful that anything you say should be able to be played in court and make you look reasonable and appropriate, even if the social workers and police are acting crazy. Never speak in anger, or you may leave in cuffs.
Having a recording also might make them back off from their intended kidnaping of your child, if they have no proper authority. They know they may be providing evidence for a serious lawsuit against them.
Further, having a recording makes it far less likely that they will trash your property, break down your door, or beat up someone. That looks very bad to judges and juries later.
If they refuse to be recorded, then tell them that you are giving the required legal notice that you are recording them, and that they are free not to speak if they wish to not be recorded. However, this is YOUR property, and you are going to record everything they say while on it. Their choice.
3. Do Not Let Them In Without a Warrant - Talk Through the Window or Go Outside.
Do not let anyone in your house to discuss whether or not to let them into your house. The best strategy is to talk through a partially open window if you can, so they cannot push open a partially opened door and get in. If no window is available near your door, then you go outside on your porch or steps.
Either way, the only topic of discussion will be your effort to gather information necessary to know whether you have to let them in, or whether you can send them away. The discussion will not be about you giving them information about you or anyone in your family, including their whereabouts. See Rule Number 1.
Do not even allow the agent to peer inside of your home or view your children.
If a pack of government wolverines comes to your door, your children will likely also come to the door to see what the excitement is all about. Shoo them away to their rooms quickly. The DCF agent will often try to talk to them, going around your authority, or to view them to see if they are hurt or abused. Do not open the door enough for that, and do not let them look around.
They will want to "Just speak with your children".
The social workers will want to speak with your children. In soothing tones, they will sound reassuring that if you just let them in, and they can speak with the children, "maybe we can clear this all up." NOT TRUE. They want to get your children alone and obtain disclosures from them about abuse and neglect to use in court. It is not that your children will make such disclosures, but with no one there to listen, they can twist your children's words to say anything they want.
Do not let this happen. Insist that the children stay with you, and all stay together. It will mess up their plan, which is based on a 'divide and conquer' strategy. Only if they can break the children off from you, can they coerce the children, and then lie about what they said while you were not able to listen. That is their plan - don't let them do it.
And that is why you don't want them in your home. In addition, they want to gather more data about you, about your home, about your housekeeping, what is in your refrigerator and much else, as well as have a much clearer path to remove the children. That is what most sudden visits are about.
Don't waive your right to be free from searches and seizures.
Just as they will try to get you to waive your constitutional right to be silent, they will also try to get you to waive your constitutional right to be free from illegal searches and seizures. Both the federal and state bill of rights allow you to stand your ground against illegal entry into your home without a warrant, in absence of an emergency. Therefore, the "emergency" card will often be the one they play. They may even try to break your door off its hinges to get in, if you resist what they view as an emergency.
Have the Massachusetts courts ruled whether you must let them in?
No, this has never been tested here, but it has in many other jurisdictions, and the trend is toward protecting homes from invasion by social workers, with or without police. It is incredible that, despite the clear wording of the United States and Massachusetts constitutions, that there would even be a question about this issue, but child protection seems to trump all rights. Social workers, as a rule, do not believe themselves to be bound by the restrictions on government power set out in the constitution.
We need to return to a strong respect for the privacy of the home. The old saying was: "Every man's house is his castle; and even though the winds of heaven may blow through it, the King may not enter." For now, in absence of a court ruling otherwise, neither the King nor the DCF may enter without a warrant. Stick to your position unless they stick a gun in your snoot.
So, do I let them in or not?
Sometimes they will be satisfied with viewing the children at the window or door. You should ask them if that will satisfy the purpose of their visit (without allowing them to see any children yet.) If it does, you cautiously bring the children within viewing distance, and have them go hide somewhere quickly.
Most of us are very understandably intimidated when people with guns order us to do something. Just remember, that it is mostly a bluff, including most claims that it is an emergency. Find all the courage you can in your soul, and stand your ground. Do not let them in, until you are SURE that they are entitled to enter.
There is a lot of further information below on how to make that decision. Don't make it hastily.
If they insist on entry or they'll break your door down, you unlock the door, state your protest that you do not give permission to enter, and that they do so at their own risk of a civil rights lawsuit. Also, you are recording every word and move they make.
4. Who are You Dealing With?
There are many variations on what can happen at your door, but the most important issue is whether you are facing social workers only, or social workers with police. There are plusses and minuses to both.
The rules are not always totally clear, but a summary follows below. Other parts of this site contain more detailed explanations about some of these rules and laws for later study, but you need a fairly simple set of rules now, in order to tell whether to let them in or not.
Let's start with who is there. Sometimes your visitors will only be social workers, and sometimes they will bring armed muscle in the form of police officers. The night shift social worker goon squad almost always has police accompaniment. Each situation presents special dilemmas.
First, make sure you are dealing with real DCF social workers and real police. Ask for Identification from the social workers and badge numbers from the police - VERY POLITELY. They get quite upset at this, but it is your right. Social workers now have to wear those "Mark-of-the-Beast" ID things around their necks, so ask them to hold them up to the window or door where you can see them. Copy the info down, and get a picture of it on your recording equipment if possible. (You are still recording all of this interaction, hopefully.)
5. What is the Allegation?
You have a right to know what the allegation is against you under federal law. Ask them what you or your partner are alleged to have done, while you continue to record the discussion. Find out as much information as possible, because getting information later is going to be much harder. Right now, you have something they want - your children. Later, if they have them, they will just smirk when you ask them for information.
They will continue to repeat their mantra about wanting to see the children. Unless the reason they give you involves a crime, in which case the police may actually have an arrest warrant, or involves a dire emergency, you should not let them in.
If they do get in by some means, then do not let them be alone with a social worker under any circumstances, as explained above. Insist that you be there with your children.
6. What is Their Authority over you and your Children RIGHT NOW?
What is their authority over you and over your children THIS MINUTE? That is the heart of the matter that you must know in order to figure out what to do - whether to resist, or to let them in, or whatever else. Often, even if they have paperwork, it may not require you or your children to go anywhere now, but only come to court at some later date. The information below will help you determine that. If they have no legal authority to be there, then the discussion with the trespassers can end, and you win. They will have to go away empty-handed, and you can collapse in a heap.
If you are only facing social workers, without police, you will have an easier time repelling their attempts to enter your home. However, if you resist the social workers, they may enlist the police to help. Social workers can never get a warrant, but they may claim any one or all of FOUR bases of authority to intrude. Most of them are false or are bluffs, but may look official.
First basis to Enter - They got a secret custody order from the court.
First, they may claim that they have a court order from the Juvenile Court granting DCF custody of your children, which they got at a secret hearing in front of the judge. Ask to see the order, because sometimes they bluff or lie, or it is only an order requiring you to come to a hearing at a later date, called a "summons". (See below).
Whatever paper they claim to have, make them pass it through the window (preferably), or give it to you if outside. It may be a bluff, and there is no paper at all, or maybe they "left" the paperwork back at their lair. If they show you a document, and you have a scanner, a fax, or some other computer device, go in and copy the order and hand it back. It may be the last you see of it, otherwise. Things "disappear" when they are not completely legal. Hopefully your tape is running, so you can also film it.
Scrutinize the document, and determine its date, what it is, who issued it, and what it requires you to do. See if it really is an order that gives them custody of your specific children right now. Not an order to show up at court at a later date, or some other official looking paper. If what you are looking at is not a valid court order, signed personally by a judge, giving DCF custody of your children immediately, explain that this is not a valid order, and terminate the conversation.
Even if they show you what appears to be a valid order that DCF has custody of your children, tell them that you will have to check with a lawyer because you do not understand the technical legal language, and that you will contact them shortly. Stall. If they leave, get out with your children and don't come back. Call a lawyer to check to see if the order has actually been issued. They bluff.
If they won't leave, or they call the police to assist them to make you hand over your children, it may be impossible to control the situation and keep your children safe from being stolen. Don't panic, and continue to try to stonewall in any way possible. If you don't let the social workers in, there is little they can do, other than summon police to beat your door in or to beat you up.
Second (False) basis to enter - They have a "Summons"
A summons is an order from a court requiring a parent to be at the court at a certain time for a hearing. As stated above, they sometimes use a summons to falsely convince you that you must give your children to them now. However, a summons will always have a later date on it, stating when you are required to report to the court in the future. It won't be right now.
Again, make them pass the order through the window and copy/scan it. Look at the order, and don't be fooled. A summons with a future date does not give them current authority over you or your children now. Even if the summons is a valid one, it gives them no current power, so don't talk about the children, or commit to anything.
Third (False) basis to enter - They have a "Precept"
Third, they may claim to have a "warrant", but they cannot have one, as Massachusetts Juvenile Courts have no power or jurisdiction to issue warrants. So, they get around that by issuing something called a "precept". A precept is a mysterious document issued by the juvenile court, which allows them to bring the child before the court, almost like a warrant. The police treat precepts like warrants and will tell you that they have a court order to take the child, when many precepts only require the child to be brought in at a later date, just like a summons.
Here is the difference between a summons and a precept: Summonses are to make parents come to court and precepts are to make children come to court.
Again, make them hand you what they have through the window, and go copy it. (You are still running the tape, aren't you?)
So what do you do if they don't have a real Summons, Warrant or Precept?
The inviolable rule is to request (politely) to see any order, warrant, precept or summons. A lot of times they will say, "Uh, well we don't have it with us." Good. That means you don't have to do anything or give your children to them. So don't. It gives you time to get away before they come back with the paperwork. Do that.
Fourth basis for entry - Emergency Powers.
Fourth, they may claim to be exercising their own DCF emergency powers, granted under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 119, Section 51B, Paragraph 3. Under that statute, if a social worker thinks there is an emergency, she can just go out and steal the children without your permission or knowledge. They may take them from their government school, from a therapist, a hospital, or your home.
This is a situation where they will almost always bring police officers. Since they have no court authority whatsoever, they bring muscle to make up for it. Mao said, "Power comes out of the barrel of a gun". Smart guys, those Commies. They have DCF all figured out.
In the Section 51B (3) situation, there is no written court order. They are required to get one on the next court day, but they don't have one yet. However, they want you to believe them that you should give your children to them. Don't.
How many of us would just turn over our kids to some social worker who we don't know, after hours, who comes and demands that we give her our children, without proof of their authority, and with no court order? That would be serious abuse and neglect of our children. So, don't do it. Turn them away.
What if the police do show up? Demand a warrant.
You have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under both the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions. Social workers rarely know much about the constitution, and often don't appear to care about it if they do. Police, however, do know about that constitutional right, and will often respect it, and refuse to enter your home without a warrant, even when the social workers are urging them on like the wicked witch screaming at the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.
The only time the police can enter a private home without a warrant is in an emergency, as mentioned above. So, they may assert one, even if it really doesn't rise to that level. The only legitimate emergency would be if a crime is being committed, or someone in your home has seriously injured a child or sexually molested him or her. Things like spanking, home schooling, or even yelling and fighting between parents do NOT constitute an emergency justifying entry.
In absence of such an emergency, you do not have to speak with any Government Agent - meaning a DCF agent or a police officer - or allow them to enter your home without a search warrant! Of course, when the social workers come with gun toting police officers, you will be tempted to panic. Don't. They cannot come in without a warrant. Remain calm. Say something like:
I understand your concerns and I'm happy to cooperate. May I see your search warrant please? (Your tape is still going and you are "talking to the judge" here)
The police officer or the DCF agent may try to tell you that a search warrant isn't required, because it is an emergency. Wrong. It IS required for the police or social worker to enter. They will again say they must see the children to be sure they are safe, threaten arrest, threaten legal action, and maybe yell and scream at you. They will tell you have to allow them into your home, by saying, "I'm required by law to come into your home to investigate." In fact, they may DEMAND to come in. However, if you give voluntary consent for them to enter, you have lost the right to appeal the issue, so object for the record.
7. Based on What You Find Out, Take a Stand and Take Action.
Now that you know the basic rules, and hopefully have figured out how to "read the street", so to speak, and have been alert as to the signals given by all the intruders, you are in a better position to make a decision as to what to do.
If the police and social workers do not have a warrant or a custody order, and they cannot justify some emergency, then you can tell them that they cannot come in. If they have no warrant, but they have a custody order from a court, and it appears to be valid, does that authorize them to take your child or children anyway? Sort of.
We have established that no matter what, you don't let them enter your home without a real bona fide warrant. If all the techniques set forth above fail to save the day, and you have to turn over your children or else end up dying or in jail as the only alternative, still don't let them in. Have the kids come out. There is still a chance that they won't kidnap your children.
For example, if the DCF agent has lied and said your children are injured, wounded, unfed, or some other false condition, and the children come out bright, well dressed, obviously well fed, with no sign of injury whatsoever, police have sometimes decided not to act as patsies for the DCF, and refuse to assist in the kidnaping. There are police officers who don't like DCF.
As set out above, the only exception to the warrant rule is if the policeman (not the DCF agent) sees a crime going on, or has probable cause to believe that there are "exigent circumstances", meaning that they know some serious crime has occurred inside. They will often say that there is an 'emergency' to get around the warrant requirement. However, there rarely is. They are usually trying to illegally break in to your house because your cranky old biddy of a neighbor complained to DCF, or, more likely, your child's government school teacher saw a bruise that the kid got from falling off his bike. That is NOT an emergency.
If they insist on coming in, you unlock the door, and again (with tape running) assert that they are violating your right to be free from illegal entry.
Bottom line: Use the information you have, doing the best you can to read the situation, and try to keep them out, while saying nothing.
This isn't Fair - We Don't Abuse Our Children.
I'm a good parent; I haven't done anything wrong.
It is a horrifying nightmare to endure having your children kidnaped out of your arms, frightened and screaming for their Mommy. The social workers think they are doing God's work to take them from their evil abusive parents, so don't ask them the cliched, "How do you sleep at night?" Just fine, thank you. They are saving children, in their minds. That they could be so cruel only intensifies the horror of it.
You are panicked, of course, maybe even numb, and you don't have any idea what to do to get them back. Despite everything, you must stay calm, for your children's sake. You must accept the fact that something very wrong has happened, and you are going to be strong, learn what to do, and beat them to get your kids back.
The other information on this site will help you learn what to do, as will the parent course available from this author, which you can order from the site as well. The process is very complicated, and they may like it that way on purpose.
If they steal my children, Now What?
Once they have physical possession of your child, they can create a case against you. This is because once they have your child, they have a monopoly on the flow of information. They can program your child to say anything, and you can't disprove it. They can get their doctors to accuse you of anything, and you can't stop them. And you often can't get any more information to or from your child. You can't hug your children or tell them you love them. They will cancel your visitation, then tell your children that you cancelled because you don't love them.
So, buck up for a long, painful, unfair, frustrating fight. You are way more motivated than they are, so you have a good chance to beat them. Just don't focus on how unfair it is, or you will divert your energy from the fight to waste on anger and other unproductive emotions. Angry people lose court cases. Of course, they traumatized and kidnaped your child, but in their view, you should be perfectly calm inside. If you are not, they will add that to the list of how unfit you are as a parent.
Can I steal them back somehow?
Once the court has taken custody of your children, it is illegal to take them and run. Some parents do anyway, at their own peril. Most get caught, and then you also have a criminal prosecution for kidnaping your own children in addition to your other problems. Then they really gotcha. Don't do it.
What If It Really IS My Fault? - Drugs, Booze, or Violence.
Before the state gets your children, consider what price you are willing to pay to keep them in your possession, and get your life in order now. Do you want to cling to the drugs, booze, violence and other reckless behavior in your home, or do you want your children? Because once they're gone, they may stay gone if you can't clean up your life, and quickly.
The state has much more ability to find out about how people live their lives today, and these bad habits can be exposed in ways you never knew about. Your child may say something at school, a doctor may see something, you may seek treatment for addiction or mental illness, or a neighbor can turn you in. There is an official legally approved snitch network operating in the U.S. now. The state will swoop in for the slightest infraction, and often catches people totally by surprise.
Unfortunately, once the state has hold of your children, you can't argue those issues anymore. Otherwise, you may win the battle and still lose the war. Just get your priorities straight and get the kids back. You will need to refer to the information elsewhere on this site for where to start.
If All Else Fails . . . .
Pray. Or, even better, pray before all else fails.
Pray, as did the persecuted Russians in the Soviet era did, for protection for you and your family "from the bitter torment of Godless authorities". (Psalm 3) Pray that your enemies would fall into their own trap, (Psalm 7: 15-16; Psalm 57:6), and that they would be turned back by God's mighty hand. (Psalm 2). Call out for mercy (Psalm 6) and be sure that you have forgiven your enemies. (Psalm 7: 3-5; Matt. 5: 43-48) Also see Psalms 56-59, which explain the right response of a person being persecuted by a powerful government enemy.