Q Do I have the right to receive medical care while I am in DCF custody?

You absolutely have the right to receive physical and mental health care while in DCF custody. This includes medical, dental, visual, mental health services, and behavioral health screening. Within 30 days of entering foster care you should expect a complete physical exam, dental assessment, and mental health assessment. If you need treatment, DCF will arrange for follow-up care including a specialist if that is what you need. Talk to your social worker or foster parent if you want to go to the doctor. Your caregiver should take you to your appointments or make sure you have transportation.

You have the right to have regular checkups, such as eye exams, physicals and vaccinations, as well as to be seen by a medical professional if you have any medical problems, injuries or need dental care.

If you are on MassHealth and need help finding a dentist you can call MassHealth at 1-800-207-5019 or visit MassHealth Dental Information for a complete list of MassHealth dental providers

Q Can I receive medical or mental health care while I am in DCF custody without DCF permission?

If you are under 18, you usually cannot receive medical or mental health care without DCF permission unless you

  1. Are a parent or think you might be pregnant
  2. Are a member of the armed forces
  3. Want to be treated for problems with alcohol or drugs
  4. Think you may need treatment for a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  5. Your doctor determines that you are a "Mature Minor" which gives you the power to make your own medical decisions or
  6. It is an emergency.

If you are having a medical emergency, however, get help immediately WITHOUT waiting for permission!

You can also ask your doctor to use the “mature minor rule” to give you the power to make your own medical decisions. To do this, the doctor will decide if you are mature enough to make these important decisions.

Tip: The“mature minor rule” CANNOT be used if you are dealing with getting an abortion or being sterilized.

Q If I am in DCF custody, who has to give permission to my doctors to give me medical care?

If you are not a “mature minor” (see the previous question) or over the age of 18, then DCF must give you permission to get medical care, such as treatment for a cold or stitches for a cut, in areas not listed in the previous question. That means, if you need to go to the doctor for routine care, call your social worker and he or she will help you get there.
If the medical care that you need is more extreme, such as a surgery or anything that involves anesthesia (putting you to sleep for a procedure), then you must get permission from the court. Still, call your social worker for help on this.
In the case of an emergency or life threatening illness, go to an emergency room and you will receive the appropriate care.

Q If I am in DCF custody, how do I find out about or get birth control?

You can receive birth control by talking to your doctor or social worker or going to a local family planning clinic. They can talk to you about abstinence, nonprescription, and prescription birth control options, and answer any other questions you might have. See Chapter Twelve, Pregnancy and Parenting for further detailed information.
For more information about birth control, you can call 1-800-230-PLAN to contact a Planned Parenthood counselor in your area.

Tip: You do NOT need permission from DCF or anyone else to ask about or receive birth control.

Q Can I have my own health records?

After the age of 14, you have the right to access your medical, dental, visual, and mental health records while in DCF custody as well as for the rest of your life. You can get a copy of these records by asking for them at your doctor’s or therapist's office or through e-mail or phone. Before you leave the office, be sure you:

  • Know the name and contact information for your doctor, dentist and counselor
  • Have a record of your medical history including your immunizations and any current prescriptions
  • Have a record of mental health assessments, treatments and prescriptions

It is important that you have a copy of all of your medical records once you turn 18 and are no longer in DCF custody. Because of this, you should ask for your medical records and get them before you leave custody.

Q Will my health insurance be taken away once I turn 18?

All children and youth in DCF custody have MassHealth, a public insurance that pays for your appointments. You should continue to receive MassHealth while in DCF custody. If you leave DCF care between ages 18 and 21, you should receive MassHealth until age 26. You do not need to complete an application. A new card with a new number will be mailed to the address you give to your social worker. Be sure to let your social worker know any time you move to a new address so MassHealth can mail you a new MassHealth care with your new number. Call MassHealth at 1-800-841-2900 for current information.

Q What is MassHealth?

MassHealth is a health insurance program run by the government of Massachusetts that provides comprehensive health insurance or assistance in paying for private insurance.
The populations that are eligible for “standard” MassHealth benefits include:

1) Pregnant Women
2) Children under age 19
3) Parents living with children under age 19
4) People who are considered disabled according to federal requirements
5) People receiving income assistance and people who are in the first year of a new job after receiving income assistance.

You will receive MassHealth through DCF until you turn 18.

After you turn 18, you can continue to receive MassHealth until you are 21 if you:

1) Sign a Voluntary Placement Agreement with DCF
2) Remain in the state of Massachusetts
3) Leave DCF care/custody between 18 and 21.

Tip: Health insurance is mandatory in Massachusetts. That means you have to have health insurance. To make this easier, the state will give you free health insurance if you have very little money and will make insurance cheap enough for you to pay it if you have a limited amount of money. It is important to get health insurance for many reasons; luckily, Massachusetts makes it easy to do so!

Q Who makes medical decisions for me when I am 18 if I can't make them because I am too sick?

You have the right to name someone to make such decisions for you. The transition plan you work on with your social worker before you leave care must include information about designating another individual to make health care treatment decisions on your behalf if you become unable to participate in making decisions and you don't have a relative who would otherwise be authorized to make such decisions. Your social worker or a DCF Adolescent Outreach Worker can provide you with information on a health care proxy.

Q What happens to my MassHealth insurance when I turn 21?

You will not have to fill out another application for continued MassHealth.Call MassHealth at 1-800-841-2900 for current information.

Q What do I do if I think I need mental health services?

If you have been receiving therapy you may be eligible to receive services through the Department of Mental Health (DMH). Ask your lawyer or social worker to help you apply for DMH services or get an application from your local DMH office. Local mental health clinics are also available to provide you mental health services.

For valuable information and worksheets to assist you in recognizing when you need help, weigh options for medication use, ask questions about your diagnosis and treatment, and take medication safely, see this new guide, Making Health Choices, posted on the Information Gateway website.

Q Can I voluntarily admit myself into a mental health facility?

Yes. If you are 16 or older, you can admit yourself for treatment. You can also ask to be treated as an outpatient so you can continue living in the community while receiving treatment. You have the right to receive all treatment that is medically necessary including mental health treatment.

Q What if I use drugs or drink too much?

If you experience cravings for alcohol or drugs, or often use, think about or try to get drugs or alcohol, talk to your social worker or lawyer or call the substance abuse helpline at 1-800-327-5050 or go to the website Massachusetts Drug Treatment.

For free and confidential help with finding the right youth service program in Massachusetts, call Central Intake and Care Coordination at 617-661-3991 or toll free at 866-705-2807.

If your life begins to revolve around getting and using, consider whether you have some other symptoms of addiction:

  • having to use more to feel the same "high",
  • fever, sweating or general discomfort when withdrawing from using,
  • using more than you planned,
  • unsuccessful attempts to quit,
  • not going to school or work,
  • spending money on drugs or alcohol that you need for food or rent, or
  • continuing to use even though you know it is a serious problem.

Q What should I do if I have a problem with drugs or alcohol?

Talk to your social worker or lawyer about getting help. You can also contact the substance abuse helpline at 1-800-327-5050. You can get more information at the website Massachusetts Drug Treatment.

Q Why do I get meds for controlling how I feel?

Sometimes your feelings or behavior are causing you so many problems that you need help. Help can come from therapy or counseling. Medication may be able to help. For more information about making healthy choices and to understand medications better, see Making Health Choices.