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Mandatory Reporting - Children

Mandatory Reporting Requirements Regarding Children
Who Must Report?

Any of the following:

  • Physicians; medical interns; hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons; medical examiners; psychologists; emergency medical technicians; dentists; nurses; chiropractors; podiatrists; optometrists; osteopaths; allied mental health and human services professionals licensed under Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 112, section 165 (marriage and family therapists, rehabilitation counselors, mental health counselors and educational psychologists);
  • Drug and alcoholism counselors; psychiatrists; clinical social workers;
  • Public or private schoolteachers; educational administrators; guidance or family counselors; school attendance officers;
  • Child care workers; persons paid to care for, or work with, a child in any public or private facility, or home or program funded by Massachusetts or licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care that provides child care or residential services to children or that provides the services of child care resource and referral agencies, voucher management agencies, family child care systems or child care food programs; licensors of the Department of Early Education and Care;
  • Social workers; foster parents; probation officers; clerk-magistrates of a district court; parole officers;
  • Firefighters; police officers;
  • Priests; rabbis; clergy members; ordained or licensed ministers; leaders of any church or religious body; accredited Christian Science practitioners; persons performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body that are recognized as the duties of any of these types of individuals (e.g., priests, rabbis, etc.); persons employed by a church or religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train or counsel a child on a regular basis;
  • Persons in charge of a medical or other public or private institution, school or facility or any such person’s designated agent; and
  • The Child Advocate appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts.

Currently there are proposed amendments to this section before the Massachusetts State Legislature that would broaden the definition of “Mandated Reporter” to include a state employee who, in his professional capacity, witnesses child abuse, including sexual abuse.

Standard of Knowledge

In his or her professional capacity has reasonable cause to believe a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from:

  • abuse (including sexual abuse) which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare;
  • neglect (including malnutrition); or
  • physical dependence upon an addictive drug at birth. 
  • being a sexually exploited child; or
  • being a human trafficking victim as defined in Mass Gen. Laws chapter 233, section 20M (a person subjected to engage in commercial sexual activity, sexually explicit performance, the production of unlawful pornography or forced services).
Definition of Applicable Victim A child is a person under the age of 18.
Reports Made To
  • Department of Children and Families (DCF) Child-At-Risk Hotline (1-800-792-5200) OR call the local DCF office in the relevant geographic area and ask for the “screening unit.”  A list of local DCF offices can be found at the Department of Children and Families website under the “Regional and Area Offices Directory” link (in the bottom left-hand corner of the page).
  • Written reports should be faxed or mailed to the appropriate area DCF office.  Please ask for the proper fax number when making the telephone report.
  • In addition to filing a report, a mandatory reporter may contact local law enforcement or the child advocate. 
  • If a mandated reporter is a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school or facility, the mandated reporter may instead notify the person or designated agent in charge of such institution, school or facility who shall become responsible for notifying the DCF in the manner outlined above
Contents of Report
  • The names and addresses of the child and the child’s parents or other person responsible for the child’s care, if known;
  • The child’s age and sex;
  • The nature and extent of the child’s injuries, abuse, maltreatment or neglect, including any evidence of prior injuries, abuse, maltreatment or neglect;
  • The circumstances under which the person required to report first became aware of the child’s injuries, abuse, maltreatment or neglect;
  • Whatever action, if any, was taken to treat, shelter or otherwise assist the child;
  • The name of the person(s) making the report;
  • Any other information that the person reporting believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries;
  • The identity of the person(s) responsible for the neglect or injuries; and
  • Other information required by the department. 
  • For the purpose of reporting, hospital personnel may have photographs taken of the areas of trauma visible on the child without the consent of the child’s parents or guardians. These photographs or copies thereof shall be sent to DCF with the report.

The form for the written report can be located at: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/family-services/child-abuse-neglect/reporting-abuse.html

Timing/Other Procedures
  • Must report orally immediately followed within 48 hours by a written report submitted to the DCF.
  • If hospital personnel collect physical evidence of child abuse or neglect, the local district attorney and local law enforcement (in addition to DCF) should be notified immediately.
Other
  • Failure of a mandatory reporter to report a reasonable belief of child abuse can result in a fine up to $1,000.
  • If the failure to report child abuse or neglect that resulted in serious bodily injury to, or death of, a child is done willfully, then the mandated reporter may be fined up to $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 2½ years or both; any appropriate licensing authority will be notified.
  • A mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has died as a result of any of the conditions listed above in the standard of knowledge section shall report the death to the district attorney for the county in which the death occurred and the office of the chief medical examiner.  Failure to do so shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.
  • Priests, rabbis, clergy members, ordained or licensed ministers, leaders of a church or religious body or accredited Christian Science practitioners do not need to report if the information was communicated to them through a confession or similarly confidential communication in other religious faiths

A Guide for Mandated Reporters may be accessed at:  http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/family-services/child-abuse-neglect/reporting-abuse.html

Source/Applicable Statute(s)

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, §§ 21, 51A (2012). 


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For reprint permission, please contact RAINN's Policy Manager, Rebecca O'Connor, at policy@rainn.org. Last updated: June 2013.
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