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Child Abuse Reporting Laws for Massachusetts

Last Reviewed: June 3, 2021

State and Statute: Massachusetts, Gen. Laws chpt. 119, 51A

What Is Reportable "Abuse": Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or neglect. [51A(a)]

Mandatory Reporters: Includes a person who is (1) a public or private school teacher, educational administrator, guidance or family counselor, child care worker, person paid to care for or work with a child in any public or private facility, or (2) "a priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, accredited Christian Science practitioner, person 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, accredited Christian Science practitioner, or person employed by a church or religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train or counsel a child on a regular basis." [21]

Training required for mandatory reporters who are professionally licensed by the state. [51A(k)]

How and Where to Report: Orally to the Department of Children and Families or local law enforcement agency, followed by written report within 48 hours. [51A(a)] and [21]

Timeline to Report: Immediately—and if made orally, followed by a written report within 48 hours. [51A(a)]

Clergy Privilege: "Any privilege relating to confidential communications … shall not prohibit the filing of a report … 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 him a mandated reporter." [51A(j)]

Penalty for Knowingly Failing to Report: A fine of not more than $1,000. For serious bodily injury to or death of a child, a fine of up to $5,000, or imprisonment for not more than 2½ years, or both, and upon a guilty finding or a continuance without a finding, notification to any appropriate professional licensing authority. [51A(c)]

Civil Liability for Failure to Report Recognized? No statute recognizes civil liability. Consult with legal counsel to ensure no recent court decisions in Massachusetts have recognized civil liability.

Immunity for Inaccurate Report: "No mandated reporter shall be liable in any civil or criminal action for filing a report … if the report or contact was made in good faith, (and) was not frivolous." [51A(g)]

Disclosure of Mandatory Reporter’s Identity: Written reports are confidential. Requests for reports may be made in certain situations. [51F]

Additional Information for Massachusetts:

All information provided here was most recently verified in June of 2021.

Related Topics:
Posted:
  • November 30, 2017
  • Last Reviewed: June 3, 2021

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