51A: Q & A
Q: What is a Mandated Reporter?
A: Most people who work with children are mandated (legally required) to report instances of abuse and neglect. This includes teachers, administrators, instructional assistants, speech therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, psychologists, literacy specialists, etc. See the Marblehead Charter's policy on mandated reporting here.
Q: When is a 51A report filed?
A: A 51A is filed when a mandated reporter, in her or his professional capacity, has reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 years is suffering serious physical or emotional injury as a result of abuse, including sexual abuse, or from neglect, including malnutrition, or who is determined to be physically dependent upon an addictive drug at birth.
Q: How is a 51A report filed?
A: Any Marblehead Charter staff member who has a concern related to the possible neglect or abuse of a child should immediately contact an administrator or his or her designee to report the concern. The staff member and administrator/designee will consult together and determine if the "reasonable cause" threshold has been met. If this criteria has been met, a verbal report will be made by phone to DCF that day. A written form will also be completed and faxed into DCF within 48 hours.
When a staff member reports a concern about caretaker neglect or abuse of a child to an administrator, the administrator will consult with relevant colleagues and make a determination if he/she will file with DCF on behalf of the District. The administrator will take into account all known relevant information at that time and decide whether to file or not.
All staff should be aware that there may be times when you, as an individual, may disagree or be unsure about the decision that the administrator has made. In this instance, it is entirely appropriate to share that concern with the administrator and, if necessary, ask for assistance in further discussing the issue from staff at Central Office.
Additionally, all mandated reporters retain their personal obligation and right to file with DCF as an individual (not an employee) about a concern they may have. All members of the Marblehead Charter community are encouraged to take these responsibilities seriously, follow their conscience, and always act in the best interest of our students.
Q: What happens after a 51A report is filed?
A: DCF will investigate the filing and will determine if the concerns are "supported" (there was enough evidence or information to support the report) or "unsupported" (there is not enough information or evidence to support the report). The person who filed the report (most often the building administrator/designee) will receive written follow-up from DCF within 60 days to inform them whether the allegation was supported or unsupported.
Q: Am I supposed to call the parents to tell them I have this concern before I file? After? Ever?
A: Each individual case is different. Consultation with an administrator/designee and other colleagues is key to deciding next steps around when and how to notify parents. Do not act alone. Always use the support network in your building to make a plan of action that is appropriate to the specific situation.
For more information, please see DCF's Guide for Mandated Reporters.