- If you are a provider at Childrens Hospital Boston and you suspect child abuse and neglect, please page the Child Protection Team by calling the page operator at x6369 and asking to page the person on-call for the CPT - someone is on-call 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.
- If you are a provider at Massachusetts General Hospital, page the MGH Child Protection Team by calling the page operator at x5656 and paging beeper# 32728.
- If you are a provider at Boston Medical Center, page the BMC Child Protection Team by calling the page operator and asking to page the person on-call for the CPT.
- If you are a provider at Floating Hospital for Children, page the NEMC Child Protection Team by calling the page operator at x5114 and paging beeper# 7233.
If you are a provider elsewhere in Massachusetts, the MA Department of Social Services Guide for Mandated Reporters(1) gives the following instructions about reporting suspected child abuse and neglect:
When you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, you should immediately telephone the DSS Area Office serving the childs residence (see phone numbers here) and ask for the Protective Screening Unit. Offices are staffed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 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 DSS Area Office or you can download it here. Your report should include:
- All identifying information you have about the child and parent or other caretaker, if known;
- The nature and extent of the suspected abuse or neglect, including any evidence or knowledge of prior injury, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect;
- The circumstances under which you first became aware of the childs injuries, abuse, maltreatment or neglect;
- What action, if any, has been taken thus far to treat, shelter, or otherwise assist the child;
- Any other information you believe might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury and/or person responsible.
Hospital personnel should take photographs of any trauma that is visible on the child. These photographs become part of the childs medical record and can be shared with DSS.
As a mandated reporter, you are required by law to also provide DSS with your name, address and telephone number.
We recommend that you inform the family that you have referred them to DSS for help. However, do NOT do so if you believe it will increase the risk to the child.
If you are in another State, please click here for a list of toll-free child abuse reporting numbers by State.
One of the most difficult tasks for the healthcare professional managing a child maltreatment case is informing the childs parent(s) or caretaker(s) of your intent to file a mandated report. We offer the following suggestions to help ease your discomfort.
tone. Be nonjudgmental and non-accusatory. Simply present the facts.
Focus on the child. You may want to start off by saying, I have concerns that your child does not feel safe at home/school/etc. or The nature of your childs injuries suggests that these injuries may have been inflicted by another person; I am therefore very concerned about his/her safety.
I have no choice. Explain that you are a mandated reporter and that State law requires you to report on behalf of any child whom you feel may be at risk for abuse or neglect.
The law is good. Explain that the statute has been enacted to protect families and children; not to harm them. Emphasize that DSS rarely takes children away from their families (unless this is a very severe case in which it is likely that the child will be removed from the home).
Its not a done deal. Explain that the law requires you to report if there is reasonable suspicion of abuse; as a healthcare provider, you do not have the power to investigate these matters or to make judgments.
Focus on the positives. Explain that filing a report may entitle them to services and supports that they may not otherwise have.
Whats next? Try to help the family understand whats going to come next. For help explaining this or answering questions, please see the page we have provided for families on this subject by clicking here.
Form an alliance. If the family is upset, try to join with them. You may say something like, I understand that this is really upsetting. We are only concerned for your childs health and want to make sure that he/she is safe.
The following has been adapted from the Massachusetts Department of Social Services Guide for Mandated Reporters.(1)
If, at the time of the initial filing, the situation is determined to be an emergency, the investigation is completed within 24 hours. If the Department determines there is a reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected, a social worker is assigned to investigate the report. Investigations of all other reports are completed within 10 days.
After conducting their social assessment, if DSS determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that an incident of abuse or neglect by a caretaker did occur, the report is supported and the Department provides the family with services to reduce the risk of harm to the child.
If the report is unsupported but the family appears to be in need of services, the Department may offer the family services on a voluntary basis. DSS will notify the mandated reporter, in writing, of its decision.
If the Department determines a child has been sexually abused or sexually exploited, has suffered serious physical abuse or injury, or has died as a result of abuse, DSS must notify the District Attorney, who has the authority to file criminal charges, as well as local law enforcement authorities for the county where the child resides and where the offense occurred.
Massachusetts State law gives the following instructions for mandated reporters who suspect child abuse or neglect (for reporting laws of other States, click here):
Any mandated reporter who, in his professional capacity shall have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 years is:
shall immediately report such condition to the Department of Social Services by oral communication and by making a written report within 48 hours after such oral communication. Whenever such person so required to report is a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school or facility, he shall immediately either notify the Department of Social Services or notify the person in charge of such institution, school or facility, or that persons designated agent, whereupon such person in charge or his said agent shall then become responsible to make the report. Any such hospital personnel preparing such report, may take or cause to be taken, photographs of the areas of trauma visible on a child who is subject of such report without the consent of the childs parents or guardians. All such photographs or copies thereof shall be sent to the Department together with such report....
Contents of Reports:
The required report shall contain:
- The names and addresses of the child and his parents or other person responsible for his care, if known;
- The childs age;
- The childs sex;
- The nature and extent of the childs injuries, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect, including any evidence of prior injuries, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect;
- Whatever action, if any, was taken to treat, shelter, or otherwise assist the child;
- The name of the person or persons making such report; and
- Any other information which the person reporting believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries; the identity of the person or persons responsible therefor; and such other information as shall be required by the Department of Social Services.(2)
The following is a list of DSS phone numbers in Massachusetts. When calling to make a report, please as for the Protective Screening Unit. These offices are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. At any other time, please call the Child-At-Risk Hotline at 1-800-792-5200.
The following is a list of State toll-free child abuse reporting numbers.(3) For States not listed, or when the reporting party resides in a different State than the child, you can call 800-4-A-Child (800-422-4453) or your local DSS agency.
(1) Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting: a Guide for Mandated Reporters. Massachusetts Department of Social Services. Boston: September, 2000.
(2) National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. (December 31, 2000). Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Elements: Reporting Laws Number 6. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
(3) National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. (February 2002). State Toll-Free Child Abuse Reporting Numbers Resource Listing. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services.