Reporting alleged child abuse or neglect (filing a 51A report)

As a child care provider, you may need to file a report of suspected child abuse or neglect with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Learn more about mandated reporting requirements for EEC-licensed and approved programs.

Overview

Massachusetts law requires professionals whose work brings them in contact with children to notify the Department of Children and Families (DCF) if they suspect that a child is being abused, neglected, or both.

What to know

Mandated reporters who are licensed by the Commonwealth are required to complete training on recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse or neglect (51A Reports).

Abuse is any non-accidental act to a child that causes or creates a risk of physical or emotional injury. Abuse includes any sexual contact between a caretaker and a child.

Neglect is the failure by a caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to provide a child with minimal care.

For more information on reporting alleged child abuse or neglect, please see the Department of Children and Families' guide for mandated reporters.

For the Massachusetts General Law on reporting of suspected abuse or neglect, please see MGL c.119, § 51A.

Additional Resources for What to know

Mandated reporters

Mandated reporters include, but are not limited to:

  • Early education, preschool, child care, or after school program staff

  • 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 of Massachusetts to provide child care or residential services

  • Child care resource and referral agencies (CCR&Rs)

  • Voucher management agencies

  • Family child care programs

  • Child care food programs

  • Child care licensors

  • Social workers

  • Foster parents

  • Licensed human service professionals

Massachusetts law requires mandated reporters to immediately make an oral report to DCF when, in their professional capacity, they have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 is suffering from abuse or neglect. Mandated reporters must also submit a written report to DCF within 48 hours.

For more information on reporting alleged child abuse or neglect, please see the Department of Children and Families' guide for mandated reporters.

51A report training

The Middlesex Children’s Advocacy Center and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office have developed training materials designed to help you:

  • Understand your legal obligation as a mandated reporter.

  • Recognize possible signs and symptoms of maltreatment.

  • Know how to respond to a child who discloses abuse.

  • File a 51A Report.

  • Understand what happens after you file a 51A Report.

You must take the training if you work with children.

Additional Resources for 51A report training

Programs and agencies licensed or approved by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)

You must immediately notify EEC after filing, or learning that a 51A report has been filed, alleging abuse or neglect of a child:

  • In the care of the EEC-licensed or approved program
  • During an EEC-licensed or approved program-related activity
  • Placed in an adoptive home under the agency

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