The Department may close a case with a supported 51A at any
time after completion of its investigation.
It is generally but erroneously assumed that the decision to
support a 51A report after investigation automatically means that the case
should be left open. However, there are some types of circumstances where
"support and close" would be the decision of choice:
Supporting an allegation of child abuse
or neglect does not necessarily mean that a child is at ongoing risk. Example:
abuse that is found to have occurred by a babysitter. The child was definitely
injured, by a caretaker. However, the family is in no way responsible for the
injury, or for choosing an inappropriate caretaker. Also, the family is
appropriate in preventing any further contact between the child and babysitter.
The incident must be supported, (as well as perhaps reported to the District
Attorney - See
), but the Department does not need
to conduct an assessment, nor to keep the case open, if there is no ongoing
risk to the child. Of course, the Department's services would be offered to the
child and family.
(2) The second
set of circumstances has to do with families that have disappeared. Example:
Boston City Hospital examines a child and discovers welt marks on his back. The
parents are interviewed, admit that they struck their child, and are informed
that a 51A report will be filed. When the Department investigator goes out,
s/he discovers that the address given does not exist. The investigator spends
the rest of ten days attempting to locate the family through all other means,
but is unsuccessful. There is reasonable cause to believe that the incident of
abuse did occur, so the 51A must be supported. However, the Department can
provide no services because the family cannot be located. Therefore, the
Department does not keep the case open.