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Home / Appendices / APPENDIX G: Filing an Effective 51A Report

APPENDIX G: Filing an Effective 51A Report

Adapted from an earlier guide by Jeff Roberts, Coordinator, Middlesex County Sexual Abuse Investigation Network
When filing a 51A report of child abuse or neglect with the Department of Children and Families, it is helpful to have as much factual information as possible at hand, including:

  • The name and birth date of the child being reported
  • The names and birth dates of any siblings or any other children in the home
  • The names, addresses, and birth dates of both parents, or other caretakers
  • The primary language spoken in the child’s home
  • The mandated reporter’s name, address, telephone number, profession, and relationship with the child (non-mandated reporters may request anonymity)
  • As much information as possible about the alleged perpetrator of the abuse (if not one of the above-named persons)

You will find it helpful to have the answers in mind to the following questions, which a DCF screener will likely ask when you file a 51A report:

  • Have you informed the parents of the reported child that you are filing a report with DCF?  If yes, what was their response? (DCF recommends that you do not inform a family if you believe it will increase the risk to the child).
  • Are you alleging neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional maltreatment of the child, or that the child is a victim of human trafficking for sexual exploitation or labor?
  • To your knowledge, what is the nature and extent of the child’s injuries, abuse, neglect, or maltreatment?
  • What is the specific incident, behavior, or disclosure that is causing you to report at this time?
  • If there was a verbal disclosure, what specifically did the child say in his or her own words?
  • Where did the abuse occur? (This is especially important in physical or sexual abuse allegations, which may involve criminal activity and need to be reported to the appropriate District Attorney’s Office).
  • Have there been past observations of the child that have caused you concern prior to the filing of this report?
  • Do you believe that the child is at current / immediate risk of further harm?  Do you believe this to be an ongoing situation, or a short-term crisis?
  • What is the child telling you about his/her feelings of personal safety?
  • To your knowledge, is the family currently involved with DCF?
  • To your knowledge, does the child have regular visits with a counselor or therapist? (If possible, provide the name and telephone number of the child’s therapist.)
  • Are you aware of any 51A reports that have been filed on this child by your agency? (If possible, provide the dates of these reports).
  • What are the child’s general demeanor, school performance record, and attendance record?
  • What actions if any have been taken to treat, shelter, or assist the child?
  • Does the child have any special needs or developmental limitations?
  • Is there any emergency contact information for the child(ren) being reported?
  • Is there any other information you believe might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury and/or person(s) responsible?
  • Is there any information that could be helpful to DCF staff in making safe contact with an adult victim in situations of domestic violence (e.g., work schedules, place of employment, daily routines)?
  • Any other information you believe would be helpful in ensuring the child’s safety and/or supporting the family to address the abuse and/or neglect concerns (other contributing or high risk factors, the family’s strengths and capacities, etc.).
    • Other examples of information you may have: restraining orders between members of the child’s household (particularly if active at the time of the report); identified weapons in the home; known sex-offenders in the home; information on other non-caregiver adults living in the home

Remember that as a mandated reporter, you are required to file a written report with the Department of Children and families within 48 hours of making the oral report. DCF will provide the form for this report. It is also available online at: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dcf/child-abuse-reporting-form.pdf. DCF is required to notify you, in writing, of its decision on your report within 60 days. If you have any questions about whether or not to report a situation, don’t hesitate to call your area DCF office for further information and advice. You may also call the Department Ombudsman’s office during regular working hours at (617) 748-2444 or email any questions to the office website (https://www.mass.gov/service-details/dcf-office-of-the-ombudsman).


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