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Filing Safely

Produced by a collaborative effort involving community members, mandated reporters and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, Domestic Violence Unit.
Reviewed 2009

3 pictures of children and adults working together, happily

Risk factors where a report is mandatory

  • The perpetrator threatened to kill the caretaker, children, and/or self and caretaker fears for their safety.
  • The perpetrator physically injured the child in an incident where the caretaker was the target.
  • The perpetrator coerced the child to participate in or witness the abuse of the caretaker.
  • The perpetrator used a weapon, made threats to use a weapon, and the caretaker believed that the perpetrator intended or has the ability to cause harm.

If any one of the risk factors outlined above is present, mandated reporters must file report of concern.

Approaches to filing safely include

A report may create additional risks for the caretaker and children in a family. Often, a perpetrator will respond to DCF intervention by blaming the caretaker or children, and will demand that the caretaker prevent DCF from intervening. This may result in the caretaker's ambivalence toward DCF, and substantial fear of perpetrator retaliation.

It is critical that mandated reporters carefully assess the perpetrator's pattern of power over and control of the caretaker and the family.

Reporters should when appropriate:

  • Consider filing in concert with the caretaker.
  • Inform the caretaker about the reason for the filing.
  • Assist caretaker to prepare a safety plan to anticipate possible perpetrator retaliation.
  • Determine whether informing the perpetrator is the safest course. And
  • Determine whether informing the children is the safest course.

How to file safely

  • Discuss the possibility of filing a report of concern with the caretaker, if possible.
  • Explore the safety concerns of filing a report by interviewing the caretaker.
  • Explore with the caretaker if it will he safe to inform the perpetrator about the report.
  • Explore with the caretaker if it will be safe to inform the children about the report.
  • Consider filing in concert with the caretaker.
  • Offer a safe place for the initial DCF visit with the caretaker, a reporter's office or other identified location.
  • Address safety planning with the caretaker.
  • File on behalf of the children. And
  • Name the identified perpetrator of the domestic violence.

Reporters should provide identifying information to elicit a safe DCF intervention

  • The location of the perpetrator:
    • Living in the home,
    • A frequent visitor to the home, or
    • Incarcerated.
  • The perpetrator's employment situation:
    • Currently employed,
    • Work hours/days, and
    • Location.
  • The family's support system:
    • Community,
    • Family,
    • Agencies, and
    • Institutional.

In order to file, DCF will need the following

  • Names, dates of birth, addresses of the children present in the home at the time of the incident.
  • Names, dates of birth, phone numbers, addresses of the caretaker and perpetrator. And
  • Phone numbers and names of involved individuals (such as family, friends, therapists, nurses, doctors, probation, police officers and other individuals who are supportive) whom DCF should contact.

Approaches for intervening safely when a report is not filed

  • Encourage caretaker to express family's immediate needs.
  • Seek the support of a community domestic violence advocate.
  • Connect caretaker and family to services which meet their immediate needs.
  • Connect the family to longer term supportive services where needed.
  • Assist the adult victim in developing a safety plan. And
  • Consult with the DCF Domestic Violence Unit.

It is important for a provider to share with DCF their knowledge and understanding of the reported incident, and of the family, and provide details of their relationship with the children. This information will assist DCF in the assessment of power and control issues in the home. DCF will evaluate these issues during both their safety and service planning processes.

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