Potential Child Abuse and Neglect and the DCF Part 2 of 2

As previously discussed in part 1 of this blog series, if children are present when police come to your home in response to a domestic assault and battery report, they will report the instance of the domestic assault to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) by submitting a 51A report of potential child abuse and neglect, as there is a concern that there may be child abuse in the home as well.

Domestic Assault and Battery Defense

Domestic Assault and Battery Defense

What will the DCF do if they receive a 51A report?

When the DCF receives a report of potential child abuse or neglect, which often occurs after a domestic assault, The DCF will evaluate the allegation by following the Child Protective Services process for determining the child’s safety within the child’s home.


  1. Screening the report. As an initial matter, the report will be screened to assess whether there is enough information to warrant a further investigation, to garner details about the alleged abuse or neglect, and to determine whether there is an immediate threat to the child. From this information, the DCF can decide how best to approach the situation.
  2. Assigning the report. Depending on the level of risk of the allegations contained in the report, the case will be assigned one of two courses of action.
    • For high risk cases, namely cases where there is reported sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, or severe neglect, the report will be assigned to Child Protective Services (CPS) and will be investigated. The investigation will be assigned either “emergency” status, indicating that the investigation should commence within 2 hours of the report and must be concluded within 5 days, or “non-emergency” status, indicating that the case is serious but may commence within 2 days, and be concluded within 15 days.
    • For low to moderate risk cases, the report will be assigned by CPS as needing further assessment. The assessment is designed to determine if the DCF’s involvement is necessary and to identify what other services offered by the DCF might be useful in promoting stability within the family in question.
  3. Determining a course of action. Based on the above information, the DCF will make a determination as to whether their involvement and intervention is required.

Most 51A reports are considered to present a serious risk of child abuse and the DCF usually decides to become involved to some degree, usually commencing a CPS investigation.

Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney

Sometimes family situations get out of hand. You might do more than raise your voice when things get out of control. You might physically strike one of your family members, or you might take disciplining your child too far. In any case, if you are in need of a criminal defense attorney serving Massachusetts, you will need someone with years of experience and an in-depth understanding of the legal system on your side.