With mandated reporting under the spotlight, it is critical to lift up the voices of young people with experience in the child welfare system. Their opinions, stories, and experiences are a critical part of understanding how such policies affect children and their families.
Mandated reporting laws became the focus of child welfare policy in the 1960s. These laws have since obligated certain professionals—teachers, medical professionals, and law enforcement—to report and surveil families for any suspicion of abuse or neglect. As a result, we have a system overburdened by millions of unsubstantiated reports that needlessly bring families, particularly families of color and those living in poverty, under the scrutiny of Child Protective Services instead of directly providing necessary services or supports.
From the outset, there was no evidence that mandatory reporting would reduce or prevent child abuse, yet this is the narrative that’s been widely shared. Today, people are telling their own stories. Their stories demonstrate that mandatory reporting causes harm and fails to address the root causes of why a family might enter the child welfare system: a lack of resources and support. Nor does reporting in and of itself provide access to resources that might help a family stay together.
Children’s Rights launched this campaign to raise up the stories of those who have experienced the harm caused by mandated reporting firsthand.
The stories are the evidence. It’s time our policymakers recognize the detrimental effects mandated reporting laws have on families. They must listen to the voices of young people who experience it and take action to eradicate harmful, discriminatory laws.
Letters to Mandated Reporters
To move this system to a family well-being system, you have to go the extra mile for each family. We must move the foster care system to a well-being one for families and young people! So, I am asking you to start asking other mandated supporters to ask more questions about what families need and try not to feed into the white savior complex. Ask families about their strengths and assets.Read Alexandria’s Letter
I understand that many reports are with good intent. However, there are many instances where people are judged based on the lack of resources and support, without seeing the strengths they have within the community and family. Asking questions, more specifically “what do you need?,” “are you hungry?” etc. could help eliminate more reporting referrals and hopefully increase connections to resources that benefit the entire family.Read Mariah’s Poem
Before we report, let’s offer support and find empathy. I have experienced the over-surveillance and silent judgment from mandatory reporters throughout all levels of the school system, from elementary school to high school, and even in college. This over-surveillance made me feel that my childhood experiences were out of my hands. I do not see how unmatched shoes and repeated clothing were a reportable offense when there are clothes closets and donation drives on school campuses.Read Jas’ Letter
Do you have lived experience in the child welfare system? Want to share your reflections on the role of mandated reporters? Let’s provide the evidence for change to lawmakers.