ANYONE who suspects a child has been abused or neglected can file a report with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) or call their local police department.
People whose jobs regularly bring them in contact with children and who have been specifically designated by the Legislature as mandated reporters are legally obligated to notify DCF when they suspect a child under the age of 18 is being abused or neglected.
Failure to file: It is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $1000 for a mandated reporter to fail to file a 51A Report when he/she has reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected.
Abuse/Neglect Resulting in Serious Injury or Death: Effective July 1, 2010, it is a crime for a mandated reporter to willfully fail to file a 51A Report if he/she has knowledge of child abuse or neglect that resulted in serious injury to or death of a child. The penalty for this new crime is:
Imprisonment in jail for not more than 2½ years and up to $5000.
Additionally, the trial court shall notify any appropriate professional licensing authority of the mandated reporter's violation upon a guilty finding or continuance without a finding for this offense.
Child Death From Abuse/Neglect - Additional Reporting Obligations: As of July 1, 2010, a mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to believe a child has died as a result of a reportable condition must report the death to the District Attorney for the county where the death occurred and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Failure to do so is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $1000.
Frivolous Report: It is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $1000 for anyone, including mandated reporters, to willfully file a frivolous 51A Report. As of July 1, 2010, there are enhanced penalities for this crime, which will become punishable by:
Up to $2000 fine (first offense)
Imprisonment in jail for not more than 6 months and up to $2000 fine (second offense)
Imprisonment in jail for not more than 2½ years and up to $2000 fine (third or subsequent offense)
A mandated reporter:
Must phone in an oral report immediately by calling the local area office where the child lives or the Hotline after-hours or on the weekend;
Must file a written report with DCF within 48 hours;
May also notify local law enforcement authorities or the Office of the Child Advocate.
A 51A report filed by a mandated reporter shall contain:
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;
The child’s 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 or persons 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 or persons responsible for the neglect or injuries; and
Other information required by the department.