What Happens When MA DCF “Screens Out” a Report?

What Does it Mean When a Report is “Screened Out”?

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (MA DCF) puts a 51A report through the “screening process” during the intake call, or right after the call is placed through anonymous, mandated, or non-mandated reporting. When the report is “screened out”, the case does not go any further. The allegations are not investigated, and the family is free of any further DCF involvement.

MA DCF Screened Out
MA DCF Screened Out


What does MA DCF do during the Screening Process

During the screening process, the department is supposed to do the following:

  1. Take notes on the caller’s reasons for contacting DCF, and concerns with the family.
  2. Review the child and their family’s history with MA DCF and child protective services agencies in other states.
  3. Request records from law enforcement containing information on the family.
  4. Conduct a CORI (“Criminal Offender Record Information”) on the family.
  5. Conduct a SORI (“Secure and Objective Reputation-Based Incentive Scheme”) on the family.
  6. Contact collaterals (e.g. neighbors, relatives, friends, doctors, and teachers) who may be familiar with the family.
  7. Browse through the family’s social media accounts and online presence.

Based on the provided information, MA DCF will “screen in” or “screen out” the 51A.

When the 51A report is screened out, that means the case goes no further. MA DCF does not investigate the allegations, and the family is free from any more MA DCF involvement.


When does MA DCF choose not to investigate allegations in an intake call?

Believe it or not, there are allegations DCF chooses not to write a report about. These are not “screened out” but are simply referred to other support services. Examples of when MA DCF does not investigate the allegations include:

  1. a report does not have enough information to determine the level of risk to the child
  2. a teenager is restricted from romantic activities (i.e. going on dates)
  3. a legal adult () is being abused or neglected
  4. the allegations are regarding elder abuse
  5. a magazine has printed sexual or pornographic pictures of children
  6. a teenager was not given money for social activities
  7. the abuse or neglect is committed by a non-caretaker
  8. the alleged abuse or neglect happened outside of the state of Massachusetts

Does MA DCF “Screen Out” a Report?

When MA DCF “screens out” a report, it means they don’t believe they need to investigate the allegations. MA DCF will screen out the report for the following reasons:

  • the alleged child abuse or neglect is not current
  • the alleged perpetrator is not a caretaker
  • the person alleged to have been abused is above the age of 18
  • there are duplicative reports
  • the child alleged to have been abused is not from the state the report is filed in
  • the reporter has no relationship with the child or with the adult

The caller must provide all background and identifying information for the child and the adult.

What does MA DCF do if they screened out a report that still might require services?

If someone tries to report something which is not explicitly considered abuse or neglect by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, the screener will tell the caller that the issue is not appropriate. There are a few resolutions to this that the Department provides. 

If a call is received and it does not rise to the definition of child abuse or neglect, the Department shall treat such calls not as a report of abuse or neglect, but rather as a request for information and referral services. It is the Department’s duty to provide the reporter with referral information to contact the appropriate authorities.

 Kevin Seaver is a trusted MA DCF Attorney Specializing in DCF Law since 1991.