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General Laws

Section 26. (a) If the child is identified by the court and it appears that the precept and summonses have been duly and legally served, that notice has been issued to the department and the report of the person qualified under section 21A is received, the court may excuse the child from the hearing and shall proceed to hear the evidence.

(b) If the court finds the allegations in the petition proved within the meaning of this chapter, it may adjudge that the child is in need of care and protection. In making such adjudication, the health and safety of the child shall be of paramount concern. If the child is adjudged to be in need of care and protection, the court may commit the child to the custody of the department until he becomes an adult or until, in the opinion of the department, the object of his commitment has been accomplished, whichever occurs first; and the court shall consider the provisions of section 29C and shall make the written certification and determinations required by said section 29C. The court also may make any other appropriate order, including conditions and limitations, about the care and custody of the child as may be in the child’s best interest including, but not limited to, any 1 or more of the following:

(1) It may permit the child to remain with a parent, guardian or other custodian, and may require supervision as directed by the court for the care and protection of the child.

(2) It may transfer temporary or permanent legal custody to:

(i) any person, including the child’s parent, who, after study by a probation officer or other person or agency designated by the court, is found by the court to be qualified to give care to the child;

(ii) any agency or other private organization licensed or otherwise authorized by law to receive and provide care for the child; or

(iii) the department of children and families.

(3) It may order appropriate physical care including medical or dental care.

(4) It may dispense with the need for consent of any person named in section 2 of chapter 210 to the adoption, custody, guardianship or other disposition of the child named therein.

In determining whether such an order should be made, the standards set forth in section 3 of said chapter 210 concerning an order to dispense with the need for consent to adoption of a child shall be applied. If the child who is the subject of the petition is under the age of 12, and if the court adjudicates the child to be in need of care and protection under this section, the court shall enter an order dispensing with the need for consent to adoption upon finding that the best interests of the child, as defined in paragraph (c) of said section 3 of said chapter 210, will be served thereby. The entry of such an order shall have the effect of terminating the rights of a person named therein to receive notice of or to consent to any legal proceeding affecting the custody, guardianship, adoption or other disposition of the child named therein.

The department shall file a petition or a motion to amend a petition to dispense with parental consent to adoption, custody, guardianship or other disposition of the child if: (i) the child has been abandoned; (ii) the parent has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of such parent, of aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring or soliciting to commit such murder or voluntary manslaughter or of an assault constituting a felony which resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or to another child of such parent; or (iii) the child has been in foster care in the custody of the state for 15 of the immediately preceding 22 months. Under this paragraph, a child shall be considered to have entered foster care on the earlier of: (a) the date of the first judicial finding, under section 24 or this section, that the child has been subjected to abuse or neglect; or (b) the date that is 60 days after the date on which the child is removed from the home. The department shall concurrently identify, recruit, process and approve a qualified family for adoption.

The department need not file such a motion or petition to dispense with parental consent to the adoption, custody, guardianship or other disposition of the child if the child is being cared for by a relative or the department has documented in the case plan a compelling reason for determining that such a petition would not be in the best interests of the child or that the family of the child has not been provided, consistent with the time period in the case plan, such services as the department deems necessary for the safe return of the child to the child’s home if reasonable efforts as set forth in section 29C are required to be made with respect to the child.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the following circumstances shall constitute grounds for dispensing with the need for consent to adoption, custody, guardianship or other disposition of the child: (i) the child has been abandoned; or (ii) the parent has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of such parent, of aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring or soliciting to commit such murder or voluntary manslaughter or of an assault constituting a felony which resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or to another child of the parent.

(5) The court may order the parents or parent of said child to reimburse the commonwealth or other agency for care in appropriate cases.

(c) On any petition filed in any court under this section, the department or the parents, person having legal custody, probation officer or guardian of a child or the counsel or guardian ad litem for a child may petition the court not more than once every 6 months for a review and redetermination of the current needs of such child whose case has come before the court, except that any person against whom a decree to dispense with consent to adoption has been entered under clause (4) of subsection (b) shall not have such right of petition for review and redetermination. Unless the court enters written findings setting forth specific extraordinary circumstances that require continued intervention by the court, the court shall enter a final order of adjudication and permanent disposition, not later than 15 months after the date the case was first filed in court. The date by which a final order of adjudication and permanent disposition shall be entered may be extended once for a period not to exceed 3 months and only if the court makes a written finding that the parent has made consistent and goal-oriented progress likely to lead to the child’s return to the parent’s care and custody. Findings in support of such final order of adjudication and permanent disposition shall be made in writing within a reasonable time of the court’s order. The court shall not lose jurisdiction over the petition by reason of its failure to enter a final order and the findings in support thereof within the time set forth in this paragraph.

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