Mandated Reporters and Filing a 51A Report

Mandated Reporters

In Massachusetts mandated reporters are individuals who have been specifically designated by the legislature to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Due to the nature of their work, mandated reporters are often the first adults to see signs of or be told about child abuse and neglect.

Please see:

Report of Abuse Form

D.C.F. Mandated Reporter’s Guide:

In Massachusetts, the following individuals have been designated as mandated reporters:

  • A physician, medical intern, hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons, medical examiner, psychologist, emergency medical technician, dentist, nurse, chiropractor, podiatrist, optometrist, osteopath, allied mental health and human services professional licensed under section 165 of chapter 112, drug and alcoholism counselor, psychiatrist or clinical social worker;
  • A public or private school teacher, educational administrator, guidance or family counselor, child care worker, person paid to care for or work with a child in any public or private facility, or home or program funded by the commonwealth or licensed under chapter 15D that provides child care or residential services to children or that provides the services of child care resource and referral agencies, voucher management agencies or family child care systems or child care food programs, licensor of the department of early education and care or school attendance officer;
  • A probation officer, clerk-magistrate of a district court, parole officer, social worker, foster parent, firefighter, police officer;
  • A priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, accredited Christian Science practitioner, person performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body that are recognized as the duties of a priest, rabbi, clergy, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, accredited Christian Science practitioner, or person employed by a church or religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train or counsel a child on a regular basis;
  • A person in charge of a medical or other public or private institution, school or facility or that person's designated agent; or
  • The child advocate (an individual appointed by the Governor whose office, in part, is responsible for ensuring that children involved with an executive agency – i.e., children served by the child welfare or juvenile justice systems – receive timely, safe and effective services and who advises those at the highest levels of state government about how the Commonwealth may improve its services to and for children and their families)

How to file a 51A Report

If a mandated reporter suspects that a child is being abused or neglected, you should immediately telephone the DCF Area Office serving the child’s residence and ask for the Protective Screening Unit. (LINK 9A - AREA DCF OFFICES)  Offices are staffed between 9 am and 5 pm weekdays.

To make a report at any other time, including after 5 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, please call the Child-At-Risk Hotline at 1-800-792-5200.

As a mandated reporter you are also required by law to mail or fax a written report to the Department within 48 hours after making the oral report. The form for filing this report can be obtained from your local DCF Area Office or from one of the two following websites:

Mandated Reporting Laws

M.G.L. c. 119, § 21   (Who is a “Mandated Reporters”)

"Mandated reporter", a person who is: (i) a physician, medical intern, hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons, medical examiner, psychologist, emergency medical technician, dentist, nurse, chiropractor, podiatrist, optometrist, osteopath, allied mental health and human services professional licensed under section 165 of chapter 112, drug and alcoholism counselor, psychiatrist or clinical social worker; (ii) a public or private school teacher, educational administrator, guidance or family counselor, child care worker, person paid to care for or work with a child in any public or private facility, or home or program funded by the commonwealth or licensed under chapter 15D that provides child care or residential services to children or that provides the services of child care resource and referral agencies, voucher management agencies or family child care systems or child care food programs, licensor of the department of early education and care or school attendance officer; (iii) a probation officer, clerk-magistrate of a district court, parole officer, social worker, foster parent, firefighter, police officer; (iv) a priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, accredited Christian Science practitioner, person performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body that are recognized as the duties of a priest, rabbi, clergy, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, accredited Christian Science practitioner, or person employed by a church or religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train or counsel a child on a regular basis; (v) in charge of a medical or other public or private institution, school or facility or that person's designated agent; or (vi) the child advocate

M.G.L. c. 119 §51A  (Role of Mandated Reporter in reporting abuse)

(a).            “A mandated reporter who, in his professional capacity, has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from: (i) abuse inflicted upon him which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child's health or welfare, including sexual abuse; (ii) neglect, including malnutrition; or (iii) physical dependence upon an addictive drug at birth, shall immediately communicate with the department orally and, within 48 hours, shall file a written report with the department detailing the suspected abuse or neglect.

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 department in the manner required by this section.

A mandated reporter may, in addition to filing a report under this section, contact local law enforcement authorities or the child advocate about the suspected abuse or neglect. . . .

(f).            Any person may file a report under this section if that person has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering from or has died as a result of abuse or neglect.

(g).            No mandated reporter shall be liable in any civil or criminal action for filing a report under this section or for contacting local law enforcement authorities or the child advocate, if the report or contact was made in good faith, was not frivolous, and the reporter did not cause the abuse or neglect. No other person filing a report under this section shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of the report if it was made in good faith and if that person did not perpetrate or inflict the reported abuse or cause the reported neglect. Any person filing a report under this section may be liable in a civil or criminal action if the department or a district attorney determines that the person filing the report may have perpetrated or inflicted the abuse or caused the neglect.

(h).            No employer shall discharge, discriminate or retaliate against a mandated reporter who, in good faith, files a report under this section, testifies or is about to testify in any proceeding involving child abuse or neglect. Any employer who discharges, discriminates or retaliates against that mandated reporter shall be liable to the mandated reporter for treble damages, costs and attorney's fees.”