Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect - Massachusetts

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Professionals Required to Report
Citation: Gen. Laws Ch. 119, § 21

Mandatory reporters include the following:

  • Physicians, medical interns, hospital personnel, medical examiners, psychologists, emergency medical technicians, dentists, nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, osteopaths, allied mental health and human services professionals, drug and alcoholism counselors, psychiatrists, or clinical social workers
  • Public or private schoolteachers, educational administrators, guidance or family counselors, or child care workers
  • Persons paid to care for or work with children in any public or private facility, home, or program that provides child care or residential services to children
  • Persons who provide the services of child care resource and referral agencies, voucher management agencies, family child care systems, or child care food programs
  • Licensors of the Department of Early Education and Care or school attendance officers
  • Probation officers, clerk-magistrates of a district court, parole officers, social workers, foster parents, firefighters, police officers, or animal control officers
  • Priests, rabbis, clergy members, ordained or licensed ministers, leaders of any church or religious body, or accredited Christian Science practitioners
  • Persons 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, or accredited Christian Science practitioner
  • Persons employed by a church or religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train, or counsel a child on a regular basis
  • Persons in charge of a medical or other public or private institution, school, or facility or that person's designated agent
  • The child advocate

Training Requirements for Mandatory Reporters

Citation: Gen. Laws Ch. 119, § 51A(k)

A mandated reporter who is professionally licensed by the Commonwealth shall complete training to recognize and report suspected child abuse or neglect. 

The webpage Reporting Alleged Child Abuse or Neglect offers guidance on reporting suspected child maltreatment, including definitions of child abuse and neglect, a listing of mandatory reporters, and brief overview of the reporting process. Links to training resources are also provided.

Reporting by Other Persons
Citation: Gen. Laws Ch. 119, § 51A

Any other person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering from or has died because of abuse or neglect may file a report. 

Institutional Responsibility to Report
Citation: Gen. Laws Ch. 119, § 51A(a), (h)

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.

No employer shall discharge, discriminate, or retaliate against a mandated reporter who, in good faith, files a report, 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. 

Standards for Making a Report
Citation: Gen. Laws Ch. 119, § 51A

A mandated reporter must report when, in their professional capacity, they have reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from any of the following:

  • Abuse inflicted upon the child that causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child's health or welfare, including sexual abuse
  • Neglect, including malnutrition
  • Physical dependence upon an addictive drug at birth
  • Being a sexually exploited child
  • Being a human trafficking victim, as defined by chapter 233, § 20M

Privileged Communications
Citation: Gen. Laws Ch. 119, § 51A

Any privilege relating to confidential communications established by §§ 135 to 135B, inclusive, of chapter 112 (regarding social worker-client privilege) or by §§ 20A (clergy-penitent privilege) and 20B (psychotherapist-patient privilege) of chapter 233 shall not prohibit the filing of a report under this section or a care and protection petition under § 24, except that a priest, rabbi, clergy, member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of a church or religious body, or accredited Christian Science practitioner need not report information solely gained in a confession or similarly confidential communication in other religious faiths. 

Nothing in the general laws shall modify or limit the duty of a priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of a church or religious body, or accredited Christian Science practitioner to report suspected child abuse or neglect under this section when the priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of a church or religious body, or accredited Christian Science practitioner is acting in some other capacity that would otherwise make them a mandated reporter. 

Inclusion of the Reporter's Name in the Report
Citation: Gen. Laws Ch. 119, § 51A

A report shall include the name of the person making the report. 

Disclosure of the Reporter's Identity

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.