Overview

The Juvenile Court Department has general jurisdiction over delinquency and youthful offender cases, adoptions, guardianships, care and protection cases (including termination of parental rights proceedings), and children requiring assistance (CRA).  

Proceedings in the Juvenile Court are closed to the public, with limited exceptions including youthful offender cases and those related to court orders to not resuscitate or to withdraw life-sustaining medical treatment for children in the custody of DCF under a Care and Protection order. G.L. c. 119, §§38, 60A, 65 and Juvenile Court Standing Order 1-84.  Apart from these exceptions, Juvenile Court case records and reports are confidential and disclosure is permitted only by order of a Juvenile Court Judge, unless the individual seeking disclosure represents a party or has otherwise been appointed on the case regarding which they seek the disclosure. Reports that are released by the court as permitted or ordered shall not be further copied or released without permission of the court. Juvenile Court Standing Order 1-84. For purposes of this document, Juvenile Court personnel are defined as those employed in the clerk's office or in the court clinic.

Unique to Massachusetts, each Juvenile Court is served by a Juvenile Court Clinic consisting of specially trained and certified licensed mental health professionals who conduct court-ordered evaluations and/or consultations. The reports produced by the Juvenile Court Clinic belong to the Court and can only be released pursuant to a Juvenile Court order (see Juvenile Court Standing Order 1-84), except as noted below. In addition, a court clinic evaluation is only done following a court ordered referral and after a Lamb warning is provided. See Commonwealth v. Lamb, 365 Mass. 265 (1974). This warning cautions the person(s) being referred that they are not in a psychotherapeutic relationship, that their participation is voluntary, and that the results of the evaluation belong to the court and will be given to the court. For informal court clinic consultations where a Lamb warning is not given, the clinicians are governed by statutes applicable to mental health professionals.

When can Juvenile Court Clinic Clinicians disclose information to Probation Officers?

Juvenile Court Clinicians may disclose information to Probation Officers on cases where the Juvenile Court Clinic has received a court referral for evaluation and a Probation Officer has been assigned responsibilities on the same case.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to DCF?

In the case on which they represent DCF, access to the court record by the DCF attorney is permitted except for any material that is impounded or otherwise protected. A Juvenile Court order is required to access records from a case in which DCF is not a party. Court personnel who are mandated reporters must disclose otherwise protected information to DCF in order to file a report of suspected abuse or neglect (G.L. c. 119, §51A) or in response to inquiry by DCF as part of an investigation conducted pursuant to G.L. c. 119, §51B.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to DYS?

Information pertaining to the basic health and safety of a youth committed to DYS’ care or custody is shared with DYS in order to ensure the health and safety of the child.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to schools?

In cases where the school is a party, access to the court record is permitted except for any material that is impounded or otherwise protected. A Juvenile Court order is required to access records from any other case.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to Juvenile Court Investigators?

In the case on which they are appointed, the appointment authorizes the Court Investigator to access the court record, except for any material that is impounded or otherwise protected. G.L. c. 119, §24, Juvenile Court Standing Order 1-84.  A Juvenile Court order is required to access records from any other case.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to the attorney for a child or young adult?

In the case on which they represent the child or young adult, access to the court record is permitted except for any material that is impounded or otherwise protected. For example, in Delinquency and Youthful Offender matters, Juvenile Court Clinic evaluations are released only by order of the Juvenile Court. A Juvenile Court order is required to access records from any other case.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to the attorney for a parent?

In the case on which the attorney represents the parent, access to the court record is permitted except for any material that is impounded or otherwise protected. A Juvenile Court order is required to access records from any other case.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to a GAL or CASA?

In the case on which the GAL or CASA is appointed, the appointment of a GAL or CASA authorizes access to the court record except for any material that is impounded or otherwise protected. A Juvenile Court order is required to access records from any other case.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to police and prosecutors?

In the case on which the prosecutor represents the Commonwealth, access to the court record is permitted except for any material that is impounded or otherwise protected. For example, in Delinquency and Youthful Offender matters, Juvenile Court Clinic evaluations are released only by order of the Juvenile Court.

When can Juvenile Court personnel disclose information to the Office of the Child Advocate?

The child advocate shall have access to relevant records held by the clerk of the Juvenile Court. G.L. c. 18C, §6.

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