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Home / Understanding the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Response

Understanding the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Response

It is important for educators to realize that DCF may screen out a report of abuse or neglect and not pursue an investigation/response. It is the responsibility of DCF to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that the child has been maltreated. Certainly, documentation by the educator of any facts that support the allegation(s) helps DCF make the decision as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe that the child has been, or may be at risk of being, abused or neglected.

If a case is screened out due to insufficient current evidence, or the need to refer the case to another agency (i.e., to law enforcement because the alleged perpetrator was not a caregiver), this does not necessarily mean that the case is closed or that the educator was wrong to suspect abuse. While not every call results in an investigation by DCF, teachers may not know what information was previously or subsequently reported about the child or the family by other concerned individuals (dentist, pediatrician, Sunday school teacher, etc.). The screening process includes DCF reaching out to collateral contacts for more information. The cumulative effect of all the reports may lead DCF to screen in the case and to provide help and intervention.

Some schools may choose to keep a confidential record of the reports made by the CPT. The purpose of this is to have something to refer to if, at a later date, the team once again feels that there is a possibility of abuse or neglect. These records, for confidentiality purposes, should be kept locked and separate from the child’s file. They are only available to one person who can bring them to the CPT. This individual is usually the school counselor, as this knowledge may be helpful in understanding the child’s future behavior.

All reports made by any member of the school staff should remain confidential. The reports of the CPT will be kept in a separate confidential file by the designated person for as long as the child is a student in that school district. This information should NOT be part of the child’s academic records or folders. Education laws and regulations regarding student records and their retention can be found on the DESE website 139 .

139 https://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr23.html?section=06


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