If you need to report potential or actual child abuse or neglect, you should immediately telephone the 24-hour DCF Child Protection Hotline at 1-(800)-792-5200. You may also contact the DCF Area Office serving the child's residence and ask for the Protective Screening Unit. You will find a directory of the DCF Area Offices at the end of this Guide. Offices are staffed between 9 AM and 5 PM weekdays.
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 the DCF website: www.mass.gov/dcf.
Your report should include:
Your name, address and telephone number;
All identifying information you have about the child and parent or other caretaker, if known;
The nature and extent of the suspected abuse and/or neglect, including any evidence or knowledge of prior injury, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect;
The identity of the person you believe is responsible for the abuse or neglect;
The circumstances under which you first became aware of the child's injuries, abuse, maltreatment or neglect;
Massachusetts law defines the following professionals as mandated reporters:
Physicians, medical interns, hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons, medical examiners;
Emergency medical technicians, dentists, nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, osteopaths;
Public or private school teachers, educational administrators, guidance or family counselors;
Early education, preschool, child care or after school program staff, including any person paid to care for, or work with, a child in any public or private facility, home or program funded or licensed by the Commonwealth, which provides child care or residential services. This includes child care resource and referral agencies, as well as voucher management agencies, family child care and child care food programs;
Child care licensors, such as staff from the Department of Early Education and Care;
Social workers, foster parents, probation officers, clerks magistrate of the district courts, and parole officers;
Firefighters and police officers;
School attendance officers, allied mental health and licensed human services professionals;
Psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, drug and alcoholism counselors;
Clergy members, including ordained or licensed leaders of any church or religious body, persons performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body, or persons employed by a religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train or counsel a child on a regular basis; and
Baby Safe Haven
The Safe Haven Act of Massachusetts
The Safe Haven Act of Massachusetts (2004) allows a parent to legally surrender newborn infants 7 days old or younger at a hospital, police station, or manned fire station without facing criminal prosecution. The Safe Haven Act is an amendment to Chapter 119 of the Massachusetts General Laws, section 39.5. The law went into effect on October 29, 2004.
Child Abuse and Neglect Overview
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the Massachusetts state agency charged with the responsibility of protecting children from child abuse and neglect. To report abuse or neglect, call the Child-at-Risk Hotline anytime of the day or night at 1-800-792-5200.
Child Abuse and Neglect Overview
Under Massachusetts law, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the state agency that receives all reports of suspected abuse and/or neglect of children under the age of 18. State law requires professionals whose work brings them in contact with children to notify DCF if they suspect that a child is being abused and/or neglected. DCF depends on reports from professionals and other concerned individuals to learn about children who may need protection. The Department receives more than 75,000 reports on children each year.
The Department is responsible for protecting children from abuse and/or neglect. DCF seeks to ensure that each child has a safe, nurturing, permanent home. The Department also provides a range of services to support and strengthen families with children at risk of abuse and/or neglect.
Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
The following definitions may be found under the Department of Children and Families Regulations (110 CMR, section 2.00):
Abuse: the non-accidental commission of any act by a caretaker upon a child under age 18 which causes, or creates a substantial risk of, physical or emotional injury; or constitutes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth; or any sexual contact between a caretaker and a child under the care of that individual. This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., abuse can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting.
Shaken Baby Syndrome: infants, babies or small children who suffer injuries or death from severe shaking, jerking, pushing or puling may have been victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome. The act of shaking a baby is considered physical abuse, as spinal, head and neck injuries often result from violently shaking young children.
Neglect: Failure by a caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability to take those actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care; provided, however, that such inability is not due solely to inadequate economic resources or solely to the existence of a handicapping condition. This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., neglect can occur while the child is in an out-of-home setting).
Emotional Injury: an impairment to or disorder of the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by observable and substantial reduction in the child's ability to function within a normal range of performance and behavior.
Physical Injury: Death; or fracture of a bone, subdural hematoma, burns, impairment of any organ, and any other such nontrivial injury; or soft tissue swelling or skin bruising, depending upon such factors as the child's age, circumstances under which the injury occurred and the number and location of bruises; or addiction to a drug or drugs at birth; or failure to thrive.
Institutional Abuse or Neglect: Abuse or neglect which occurs in any facility for children, including, but not limited to, group homes, residential or public or private schools, hospitals, detention and treatment facilities, family foster care homes, group day care centers and family day care homes.
Warning Signs for Child Abuse or Neglect
There are often certain recognizable physical and behavioral indicators of child abuse or neglect. The following signs, by themselves, may not be conclusive evidence of a problem, but serve as indicators of the possibility that a problem exists.
Signs of Physical Abuse
Bruising, welts or burns that cannot be sufficiently explained; particularly bruises on the face, lips, and mouth of infants or on several surface planes at the same time;
Withdrawn, fearful or extreme behavior;
Clusters of bruises, welts or burns, indicating repeated contact with a hand or instrument;
Burns that are insufficiently explained; for example, cigarette burns; and
Injuries on children where children don't usually get injured (e.g., the torso, back neck buttocks, or thighs).
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Difficulty walking or sitting;
Pain or itching in the genital area;
Torn, stained or bloody underclothing;
Frequent complaints of stomachaches or headaches;
Bruises or bleeding in external genitalia;
Feeling threatened by physical contact;
Inappropriate sex play or premature understanding of sex; and
Frequent urinary or yeast infections.
Signs of Emotional Injury
Inability to play as most children do;
Anti-social behavior or behavioral extremes; and
Delays in emotional and intellectual growth.
Signs of Neglect
Lack of medical or dental care;
Chronically dirty or unbathed;
Lack of adequate school attendance;
Lack of supervision; for example young children left unattended or with other children too young to protect or care for them;
Lack of proper nutrition;
Lack of adequate shelter;
Self-destructive feelings or behavior; and
Alcohol or drug abuse.
Each case of child abuse or neglect is individual. The child who has been hurt is always the victim. If you believe a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect, contact the Child-at-Risk Hotline at 1-800-792-5200.