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Foster Care Terms

How is the Department of Children and Families (DCF) structured in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts DCF “Area Offices” are responsible for working with children and families within a specific region of a city or the state. Although many of our patients are in Worcester, families from any DCF area office can be seen at FaCES. There are various types of DCF social workers within each Area Office who serve families and children.

  • Medical Social Worker: An Area Office’s medical social worker assists with many aspects of the medical care of children within that office’s care, including: helping a foster parent obtain a child’s 7-day screening and 30-day comprehensive visit when entering a new foster care placement; assisting with care coordination for chronic health issues when a child is entering a new placement; assisting with health insurance matters; assisting with transfer of medical records.
  • Ongoing Worker: An ongoing worker is in charge of a specific child’s case while that child is in DCF’s care. Some of an ongoing worker’s roles include: assisting with a child’s educational needs, court appointments, visits with biological parents, assisting with fulfillment of a child’s service action plan.
  • Family Resource Worker: Family resource workers support, and act as liaisons for, foster families. Some of their duties include helping find foster care placement, performing a foster family’s home study, and addressing a foster family’s needs or concerns with regard to their foster children.
  • Adoption Worker: An adoption worker specializes in helping place children in adoptive homes.
  • Adolescent Outreach Worker: An adolescent outreach worker is specialized in addressing the unique needs of adolescent youth in foster care. These workers assist with preparing youth to adjust to adulthood by providing them with resources and life skills training.

 What are some of the different types of foster care?

  • Unrestricted: A foster parent or family who is licensed to take care of any child placed in foster care.
  • Child-specific: Individual who is identified to take care of a specific child based on a relationship to that child (i.e., teacher, a friend’s parent). These homes are licensed only to care for this specific child.
  • Kinship: Foster care provided by a person related to or associated with the child’s family, however the kinship parent does not necessarily have to be biologically or legally related to the child. A kinship placement can also be a child-specific placement in that the foster caregiver is only licensed to take in a specific child. However, a kinship home could be asked or licensed to take in other youth, therefore making the home no longer only a child-specifi home.
  • Hotline: Hotline foster care providers take care of children for a short-term period, typically just overnight, before the child is placed in a foster home. Often, these settings take care of children who were emergently removed from their homes of origin.
  • Respite: Foster care providers approved to take care of foster children when their foster parents take a planned hiatus, vacation or deal with an emergency.
  • Intensive Foster Care: These foster care placements are for children who have medical or emotional needs that require more intensive support from a foster care provider.

 To read more about foster care, visit our Foster Care Basics section or see the below links from DCF’s website: