Mandated reporters due to their work and close relationship with children are required by law to file with The Department of Children and Families (DCF) when they suspect abuse and/or neglect of a child. When a mandated reporter has “reasonable cause” to believe that a child has been abused or neglected they must report to DCF. The mandated reporter must file a report with DCF and may talk to the police. Mandated reporters who are licensed by the Commonwealth must take necessary trainings to help them understand and recognize abuse and/or neglect. Mandated reporters may not be prosecuted or face civil liability for filing a report if the report was made in good faith and was not frivolous.
What happens when a mandated reporter fails to report abuse or neglect?
Mandated reporters who fail to report suspected abuse or neglect may be fined. This fine may be up to $1,000. If the mandated reporter willfully fails to report child abuse or neglect that resulted in serious bodily injury or death, the fine may be up to $5,000. The mandated reporter may also face jail up to 2 ½ years. A mandated reporter can be fined up to $2,000 for knowingly and willfully filing a frivolous report. When a second offense occurs, there could be an additional penalty of six months in jail. For a third and subsequent offenses jail time can be increased.
Mandated reporters who work at an institution such as a hospital or school, can report suspected abuse and/or neglect directly to DCF. Mandated reporters may also select to have a designated person to do so. As part of the hospital’s mandatory reporting duty the hospital staff may be authorized to take pictures of a suspected victim of abuse without receiving permission of the child’s parent or guardian. The pictures are then sent to DCF with the child abuse report. This is limited to only pictures taken in hospital settings and by hospital personnel. All other individuals are required to get your permission as a parent to take photographs, unless the child is already in DCF custody. If a hospital collects physical evidence of abuse or neglect, it must immediately notify DCF. The district attorney and local police will also be notified.
Who is a mandated reporter?
The mandated reporting law includes those who work closely with children. The occupations covered are: school personnel, law enforcement, therapists, day-care providers, probation officers, social workers, clergy, and the child’s advocate. Confidentiality rules governing social workers and therapists do not apply when it comes to the reporting of child abuse and/or neglect. Mandated reporters are required to disclose their identity and are not allowed to make anonymous reports. Mandated Reporters may include:
- Person employed by a state agency within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services including but not limited to employees of the:
- Department of Developmental Services
- Department of Mental Health
- Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
- Person employed by a private agency providing services to persons with disabilities
- Medical intern
- Hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons
- Medical examiner
- Public or private school teacher
- Educational administrator
- Guidance or family counselor
- Day care worker
- Probation officer
- Social worker
- Foster parent
- Police officer
Who is a non-mandated reporter?
Any person not mandated by law to report suspected abuse or neglect may file with The Department of Children and Families (DCF). Non-mandated reporters include:
- Concerned family member
- Any other concerned citizen
Non-mandated reporters may make an anonymous report unlike mandated reporters who are not allowed to. Non-mandated reporters may not be prosecuted or face civil liability for filing a report so long as they are not the alleged perpetrator of the abuse or neglect. The report must be made in good faith.
The first offense by a non-mandated reporter includes a fine up to $2,000 for knowingly and willfully filing a frivolous report.
A second offense by a non-mandated reporter may result in an additional penalty of six months in a house of correction.
The third offense by a non-mandated reporter includes a fine of $2,000 plus up to 2 ½ years in a house of correction.
An anonymous reporter is a non-mandated reporter. An anonymous reporter can call DCF at any time, report an abuse, and does not have to provide DCF with any information, not even their name or contact information. DCF is obligated to follow through with all allegations even if they are coming from an anonymous caller.
What should the report of child abuse and/or neglect include?
- The report of child abuse and/or neglect to DCF will contain:
- The names and addresses of the child.
- The child’s parents or the persons responsible for the child’s care.
- The child’s age, the child’s sex.
- The nature and extent of the child’s injuries such as whether it is considered abuse, maltreatment or neglect (this will include any evidence of prior injuries).
- The circumstances under which the person required to report first became aware of the child’s injuries.
- The action taken to treat, shelter, or otherwise assist the child.
- The name of the person or persons making the report.
- The identity of the person or persons responsible for the abuse and/or neglect.