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Massachusetts Child Abuse Laws

Child abuse laws criminalize physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of minors and also require certain third parties with knowledge of the abuse to report it to the authorities. In Massachusetts, professionals with access to children (such as teachers and pediatricians) are required to report suspected cases of child abuse. The Massachusetts Department of Social Services investigates reports of child abuse (and neglect) in the state.

The following table touches on the basics of Massachusetts child abuse law.

Code Section

119§51A, 119§21

What Constitutes Abuse

Physical or emotional abuse or injury causing harm to child's health or welfare including sexual abuse/neglect, malnutrition and physical dependence upon addictive drug at birth

Mandatory Reporting Required By

Physician, hospital personnel, psychologist, medical examiner, EMT, dentist, nurse, chiropractor, school teacher, educational administrator, counselor, day care worker, probation and parole officers, clerk of the court, social worker, firefighter, policeman, mental health services professional, foster parent, drug and alcohol counselor, clergy

Basis of Report of Abuse/neglect

Reasonable cause to believe a child is suffering from physical or emotional injury causing harm or substantial risk of harm to child's health and welfare

To Whom Reported

Department of Social Services

Penalty for Failure to Report or False Reporting

Fine up to $1,000

Child abuse is broadly defined as when a parent or caretaker emotionally, physically, or sexually buses, neglects, or abandons of a child. Child abuse laws are intended to protect children from serious harm while still allowing parents to raise and discipline their children as they see fit. Cases of child abuse are more frequent in the United States than most people realize: every year there more than 3 million reports of child abuse made, involving almost 6 million children. Four or five children are killed by child abuse or neglect every day. If you suspect that someone is abusing a child, you can contact child abuse resources in your state or visit FindLaw’s Where to Get Help for Child Abuse section for more information on what to do.

Massachusetts Child Abuse Laws Related Resources:

Physical, psychological, and emotional effects of child abuse can be extreme. You should always report possible child abuse cases to the authorities as soon as possible. For more introductory information about this topic, you can visit FindLaw’s child abuse section. If you would like to talk to a lawyer concerning an existing or possible case of child abuse, you can contact a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney in your area.

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