Frequently asked questions about reporting abuse and neglect

FAQs about reporting abuse and neglect

How do I make a report of suspected abuse to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission?

If you suspect that a person with a disability is being abused or neglected you should call the Hotline at the Disabled Persons Protection Commission. The toll free number is 1-800-426-9009 or 1-888-822-0350 TTY.

How do I know if I am a Mandated Reporter?

If you are working in one of the following positions you are a Mandated Reporter:

  • physician,
  • medical intern,
  • hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons,
  • medical examiner,
  • dentist,
  • psychologist,
  • nurse,
  • chiropractor,
  • podiatrist,
  • osteopath,
  • public or private school teacher,
  • educational administrator,
  • guidance or family counselor,
  • day care worker,
  • probation officer,
  • social worker,
  • foster parent,
  • police officer
  • person employed by a state agency within the executive office of health and human services,
  • or employed by a private agency providing services to persons with disabilities.

What if I am not a Mandated Reporter can I still report abuse and neglect?

Yes, you can report abuse and neglect of a person with a disability even if you are not a Mandated Reporter. As long as you report in good faith you will not be either criminally or civilly liable for making a report of suspected abuse or neglect.

What if I am not certain that abuse or neglect has occurred? Should I still file a report?

If you are not certain that abuse or neglect has occurred, it is recommended that you file a report. The standard for reporting suspected abuse or neglect in Massachusetts is reasonable cause to believe , which means that you need to have only a " mere suspicion" that abuse or neglect has occurred, in order to report it. Everyone is urged to err on the side of caution, and immediately report all suspected cases of abuse or neglect to the DPPC at 1-800-426-9009 (1-888-822-0350 TTY) and other agencies, as appropriate. At a minimum, all precautions should be taken to insure the immediate safety of the alleged victim.

Once I file a report with DPPC's hotline, will I hear back from someone about the screening decision, or the results of the investigation?

Reporters will receive a form letter within a few days of filing a report with the DPPC hotline informing them whether the report they filed was screened in or out for investigation under c.19C. If the report was screened in for investigation, the letter will indicate which agency has been assigned to investigate; either DPPC, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Department of Mental Health (DMH) or the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), and the reporter should expect to be contacted by the assigned investigator. If the report was screened out, due to lack of jurisdiction, the reason will be indicated on the form letter. Reports that are screened out by DPPC are still referred to the appropriate state agency for any follow-up deemed necessary.

Reporters (and other parties identified in the complaint) are entitled to receive a copy of the completed investigation report. However, the request must be made in writing and addressed to DPPC's Deputy General Counsel. A redacted copy of the report will be sent to the reporter.

How do I get a copy of a 19C Report?

To get a copy of a DPPC Investigation Report (19C Report), you must put your request in writing and mail or fax it to the DPPC General Counsel. Your request must provide the following information:

  • Your name
  • Mailing address and telephone number
  • Your relation to the investigation (for example, witness, alleged abuser, alleged victim, relative or guardian of the alleged victim, etc.)
  • If you are the alleged victim's legal guardian, you must enclose a copy of the Decree issued by the court appointing you as legal guardian.

Do I still have to report if I am told that someone else has, or will, file the report?

Under M.G.L. c.19C, mandated reporting is defined as an individual responsibility. Generally speaking, it is up to the individual reporter to be certain that a report of suspected abuse or neglect is filed. Mandated reporters should not rely on others (e.g. supervisors, administrators) to file reports for them. However, if more than one mandated reporter (e.g. a treatment team) is aware of a reportable condition, one of the mandated reporters may report on behalf of all the mandated reporters by making a report which contains the names of all the mandated reporters. It is the responsibility of each of the mandated reporters to insure that such a report is actually made. A failure to report in such a situation will result in liability for all the mandated reporters who were aware of the abusive situation and did not report.

What if the individual does not want me to tell anyone about the abuse? Do I still have to report it?

Yes, a report must be filed, unless the person with a disability is competent and invokes a "privilege of confidentiality," while disclosing abuse within certain licensed, privileged relationships. There are specific privileged relationships identified within M.G.L. c.19C that once invoked by the person with a disability may cause the mandated reporter not to report the abuse without being liable for failing to report. Those privileged relationships are between:

  • a licensed social worker/ client,
  • a psychotherapist/client and
  • spouses.

The invoking of the privilege simply converts the mandated reporter to a non-mandated reporter who must evaluate the invoking of the privilege against the need to report in order to protect the overall welfare of the person with a disability. If the overall welfare of the person with a disability requires that the matter be reported, then the matter should be reported. The invoking of the privilege by a competent person with a disability merely relieves the mandated reporter from the penalties for not reporting as long as the decision not to report is made in good faith and is made in the best interests of the person with a disability.

What are the penalties for not reporting?

Any person who is a Mandated Reporter and who fails to report a suspected case of abuse or neglect of person with a disability will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.00 dollars.

Won't I place the victim at increased risk of abuse if I file a report?

This is a frequently expressed concern of service providers. There are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of further abuse. Reporters should express any concerns regarding the alleged victim's safety at the time of filing a report of suspected abuse or neglect. For instance, if it is known by the reporter that there are weapons in the home, or that the alleged abuser currently has access to the alleged victim, this information should be communicated to the hotline intake staff so that the appropriate precautions can be taken. Investigators made aware of these issues can take precautionary steps, such as interviewing the alleged victim in a safe and familiar setting, like a day program, where the individual receives services and feels comfortable.

Perpetrators sometimes decrease, or stop, their abusive behaviors once they become aware that authorities have been notified of allegations of abuse. Depending on the situation, this can sometimes serve as a "wake-up" call to put perpetrators on notice. In situations where the caretaker (perpetrator) may have felt overwhelmed, or overly stressed, the filing of a report of abuse or neglect may actually bring a sense of relief that the situation is out in the open, and that supportive services are available.

Service providers who struggle with these concerns need to remind themselves of the possible consequences to the victim, and other potential victims, if a report is not made…namely, the possibility of escalating chronic abuse or neglect.

What if I file a report of abuse, and it damages my relationship with the individual, or the family, resulting in the family terminating services with the agency?

The alternative of not filing a report may result in even more severe, long-term damage to the victim and other potential victims. While this is a legitimate concern of services providers, the first priority should always be to protect the individual from suspected abuse or neglect by filing a report and allowing the investigation process to go forward. The reporting agency may choose to alert the individual or the family, prior to filing a report, that a report will be made. Many agencies have existing policies in place informing individuals receiving services and their families that certain information, including allegations of abuse or neglect, must be reported to authorities. These are optional policies for services providers to consider within their organizations.

If I know the victim has been the subject of previous reports of abuse or neglect, do I need to file a new report if I become aware of similar, recent allegations?

Yes. All new incidents of abuse or neglect should be reported to the DPPC and appropriate authorities, even if there have been similar allegations in the past. Each incident is screened separately and referred for investigation, or other follow-up, as necessary.

Is there a Statute of Limitations for reporting cases of suspected abuse and neglect to DPPC?

Any incidence of suspected abuse or neglect that occurred after March 1987, when M.G.L. c.19C was enacted, is still considered reportable to the DPPC.

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