Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New Child Protection Law

Yesterday, Governor Patrick signed a new law, An Act Protecting Children in the Commonwealth (H4905), which provides significant changes to child abuse and prevention law in Massachusetts. Some highlights:

  • The Department of Social Services will now be called the Department of Children and Families.
  • A new Office of the Child Advocate has been created within the Governor's Office with broad powers to investigate "critical incidents," defined as "(a) a fatality, near fatality, or serious bodily injury of a child who is in the custody of or receiving services from the executive office of health and human services or 1 of its constituent agencies; or (b) circumstances which result in a reasonable belief that the executive office of health and human services or 1 of its constituent agencies failed in its duty to protect a child and, as a result, the child was at imminent risk of, or suffered, serious bodily injury."
  • Provides criminal penalties for "harboring" a ward of the state, but provides a defense "if the defendant concealed or harbored a child in the reasonable good faith belief that the child would be at risk of physical or sexual abuse if the child returned to his custodial residence."
  • Improves college benefits for children in foster care.
  • Increases penalties for failure of mandated reporters to report abuse.
More information on the new law is available from More information on child abuse laws in Massachusetts is available at Mass. Law About Child Abuse and Neglect.