43 Kids and the Law Abused and Neglected Children Massachusetts law requires certain professionals to file a report with the De- partment of Children and Families (DCF) whenever they have “reasonable cause to believe” that a child has been abused or neglected. In addition, any other person may report suspected abuse or neglect. A report of abuse or ne- glect is called a 51A. It is named for the section of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 119 which defines reports of abuse and neglect of children. Who is required to report suspected abuse? Required reporters include school officials, teachers, day care workers, health care professionals, social workers, counselors, probation officers, foster par- ents, and police officers. If such a professional, in the course of their work, rea- sonably believes a child under age 18 is suffering serious physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse or neglect, that professional must immediately file a report with DCF. These professionals who are required to report are called mandated reporters. Religious leaders are also required to report unless they learned this information through confession or similar religious practice. What is the professional required to report? A reasonable belief that a child is suffering physical or emotional injury from: • Abuse that causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare, including sexual abuse. • Neglect, including malnutrition. • Physical dependence on addictive drugs at birth. • Being a sexually exploited child. • Being a human trafficking victim. Abused and Neglected Children 5 5