Prevent Child Abuse in Massachusetts


How do I get online child abuse prevention training and background checks?

Compass Abuse Prevention Services offers online child abuse prevention training and background checks.

What is child abuse and neglect in Massachusetts?

According to Massachusetts law, child abuse and neglect are defined as:

Abuse means: The non-accidental commission of any act by a caregiver which causes, or creates a substantial risk of, physical or emotional injury or sexual abuse to a child; or the victimization of a child through sexual abuse or human trafficking, regardless if the person responsible is a caregiver. 

child abuse

This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., abuse can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting). DCF defines “sexual abuse” as any non-accidental act by a caregiver upon a child that constitutes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth or any sexual contact between a caregiver and a child for whom the caregiver is responsible.

Neglect means:  Failure by a caregiver, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to take those actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care, including malnutrition or failure to thrive; provided, however, that such inability is not due solely to inadequate economic resources or solely to the existence of a handicapping condition.

A “caregiver” can be a child’s parent, step-parent, guardian, or any household member entrusted with the responsibility for a child’s health or welfare.  In addition, any other person entrusted with the responsibility for a child’s health or welfare, both in and out of the child’s home, regardless of age, is considered a caregiver. Examples may include:  relatives from outside the home, teachers or staff in a school setting, workers at an early education, child care or afterschool program, a babysitter, foster parents, staff at a group care facility, or persons charged with caring for children in any other comparable setting.

According to the Child Welfare League of America, there were 22,538 victims of abuse or neglect in
Massachusetts in 2020, a rate of 16.8 per 1,000 children. This is a 28.7% decrease since 2016.

Who is a mandated reporter according to MA state requirements?

According to the MA Mandatory Reporter Guide, Massachusetts law defines the following professionals as mandated reporters:

  • Physicians, medical interns, hospital personnel engaged in the examination,
    care or treatment of persons, medical examiners;
mandated reporter
  • Emergency medical technicians, dentists, nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists,
    optometrists, osteopaths;
  • Public or private school teachers, educational administrators, guidance or family counselors;
  • Early education, preschool, child care or after school program staff, including 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, which provides child care or residential services. This includes child care resource and referral agencies, as well
    as voucher management agencies, family child care providers and child care food programs;
  • Child care licensors, such as staff from the Department of Early Education and Care;
  • Social workers, foster parents, probation officers, clerks magistrate of the district
    courts parole officers;
  • Firefighters and police officers;
  • School attendance officers, allied mental health and licensed human services professionals;
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, drug and alcoholism counselors;
  • Persons in charge of a medical or other public or private institution, school or facility or their agents;
  • Clergy members, including ordained or licensed leaders of any church or religious body, persons performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body, or persons employed by a religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train or counsel a child on
    a regular basis; and
  • The Child Advocate.

How do I report child abuse in Massachusetts?

All reports of suspected child abuse or neglect must be phoned in to DCF. Please call immediately if you know of, or suspect, an incident of child abuse or neglect 

During regular business hours (8:45 a.m.-5 p.m. M-F) call the Department of Families and Children (DCF) area office that serves the city or town where the child lives. Nights, weekends, and holidays dial the Child-at-Risk Hotline at (800) 792-5200.  
report child abuse
After making a call, mandated reporters must complete the required written report within 48 hours. This form can be submitted online, mailed in, or via fax. Step-by-step instructions can be reviewed here and in the DCF Mandatory Reporter Training Video.
Mandated reporters must report a death as a result of abuse and/or neglect to the local District Attorney and to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.  
Mandated Reporters who are staff members of medical or other public or private institutions, schools or facilities, must either notify the Department directly or notify the person in charge of the institution, school or facility, or his/her designee, who then becomes responsible for filing the report. Should the person in charge/designee advise against filing, the staff member retains the right to contact DCF directly and to notify the local police or the Office of the Child Advocate.

Any mandated reporter who fails to make required oral and written reports can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000.  Any mandated reporter who willfully fails to report child abuse and/or neglect that resulted in serious bodily injury or death can be punished by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 2½ years in jail, and be reported to the person’s professional licensing authority.

How do I contact the MA Department of Children and Families?

Contact the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
600 Washington St, 6th Floor

Boston, MA 02111
(617) 748-2000

reporting child neglect

Disclaimer: Please ensure the information and courses meet requirements for your organization and circumstances and align with what your state Department of Children and Families requires. The state requirements and child abuse and human trafficking statistics listed on this page are current as of February 20th, 2023 to meet the best information available. State requirements may change and it is your responsibility  to know your state mandated reporter requirements and the process for online child abuse prevention training. Compass Abuse Prevention Services can not guarantee acceptance by your school, organization, or state Department of Children and Families. If there is a child abuse emergency, call 911 immediately.

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