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Notifying the Family

In creating procedures for reporting, the question always arises: “Should the school notify the family and, if so, when?” This is a much-debated concern. On one hand, if a family is told before DCF has had a chance to become involved, there is a possibility that the child could be further harmed with little or no protection being offered. The family could remove the child from school or flee the area. Yet, some people argue that if the family is told before the report is made, they can be helped to recognize that the intent of the report is to help rather than punish. It is obvious that there are pros and cons to each approach. The rule used by most schools is to ask direction from DCF. Does DCF want the school to tell the family or will DCF do so? The bottom line is the protection of the child and this must always be the paramount concern.

Educators have sometimes asked if they will be in any kind of danger if the family knows they have reported. DCF regulations do not allow it to disclose the name of a reporter unless ordered by a court or required by statute such as when DCF is required to provide the 51A report to the District Attorney or other law enforcement (110 CMR 12.08). Schools should follow suit and have internal policies referring family questions to DCF about which staff member brought the concern forward rather than disclose the name. Even if the family was told, abusive families, with few exceptions, are dangerous only to their own children and to each other, usually not to other adults outside of the family. Most families desperately need assistance and can be helped to recognize that concerned adults want them to be successful in their parenting. If, however you feel that you might be in personal danger, let the DCF worker know this and why.

After the report has been made, the reporter is usually interested in what happens. Some reporters voice their frustration with DCF for not giving follow-up information. This is true in many cases for confidentiality reasons. If a report is screened out, DCF is required to provide the mandated reporter (who files the report) a letter explaining that this action was taken. If the case is screened in for investigation, DCF also is required to inform the mandated reporter, in writing, of the outcome of the response. Some reporters suggest that this is not always done, and/or they do not receive sufficient information. If a mandated reporter does not hear back about the status of the filing, they should call DCF and ask for the information they are entitled to. That said, it is important to remember that information sharing is governed by a number of state and federal statutes which limit the amount of case-specific information that DCF is able to provide. The best suggestion is to develop a rapport with DCF, possibly through the representative to the CPT. While this person may not be able to tell you about a particular report, they can sufficiently acquaint you with DCF procedure so that you and the school may feel better informed. It is usually best to designate one person to be a liaison with DCF. For example, the protocol may read:

After reporting a case to DCF, the [designated reporter], representing the CPT, will monitor the outcome of the report. This information will be kept confidential and will be available only to the CPT and the original reporter.

If you continue to have questions or concerns about a decision made by DCF, you can speak to a supervisor at the Area Office. If you are still dissatisfied, talk to the Area Program Manager, and then the Area Clinical Director. There is also an Ombudsman at the Department’s Central Office with whom you can discuss your concerns (see Appendix G below). You may also speak with the Office of the Massachusetts Child Advocate. 142

142 https://www.mass.gov/orgs/office-of-the-child-advocate


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