Dear Mandated Reporter,
Love is an energy of possibility: the possibility of wholeness in a Platonic understanding!
– Adrienne M Brown
They should call you a mandated supporter, as you are here to support the families. But we will get to that later on.
Looking back at my child welfare case and my advocacy work in my short 29 years, I want to remind you that your job is to ensure our families are supported and can thrive in their communities. With that in mind, how can we move this system to where we support the families? How can we ask more questions about support and the situation before reporting them?
In my case, my mother was a product of your “wonderful” child welfare system. She aged out of the foster care system without any supportive services, connections, or community for her to turn to when she needed help– but that’s a story for another day. How can or did we expect her to know how to take care of children? She was surviving the system most of her life. Why wasn’t she looked at as an individual? Instead, she was case number and looked at with the same case goals to achieve to get her kids back. I know that you have many cases and don’t have time to go the extra mile for each family member. We must change this.
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.
This helps our families and young people see the assets and strengths that they hold! We all struggle and hit bumps in the road, but the difference is that if you live in poverty, you are met with judgment and a savior complex. The most human thing to do is ask what they need. That allows us to meet people with patience, grace, and understanding and know they are human!
If someone had asked my mother what her assets were, she would have told you that she was a fantastic cook, loved the lord, served in the church and community, was passionate, creative, funny, and was terrific with newborns to pre-school age children. None of those things were considered or discussed with her. She was constantly trying to survive poverty and heal from her childhood trauma. She may not have been the world’s greatest mom to the mandated reporter who reported her, but she is the reason I am who I am and that I am alive. She taught me to stand up, fight, defend, and be a voice for the causes that I am passionate about.
In short, what I am asking you to do before reporting to the Department of Children and Families, is to look at people as individuals. Those individuals have so many layers and complexities to them! Look into Asset Based Community Development Model (ABCD). Start by building trust with those communities, listening to them, and understanding that they know what they need to thrive!
Learning about ABCD from The Neighboring Movement changed my engagement with families, young people, and communities. My favorite thing to do with any families or youth I work with has a learning conversation. Learning conversations aims to identify hidden gifts, deepen relationships, make connections, and invite engagement. Here are a few of my favorite questions to ask people– I challenge them to ask about the people they work with and see the relationship build and grow.
- What is something you know so well that you could teach it to someone else?
- What is something that you can build/make/do?
- If you could open any business, what would it be?
- What is something you are passionate about that moves you to action?
- What moment or event has caused you to grow the most?
It’s time we stop traumatizing families, young people, and communities! It’s time we start helping them heal!
As a mandated supporter, I’ve made it my mission to look at the individual when working with youth or families! How can we wrap resiliency around the people we help?
One final question for you to think about, how can we reimagine the system? Think about it and send me your answer!
I want to leave you with one last quote:
“Connection and love are incredibly healing! We all can have the capacity to heal each other! That a healer is possible in each of us!”
– Adrienne M Brown
Alexandria Ware, MS | CEO& Founder of Culture Creations Inc | Owner of Ware Consulting | Co-founder and Co-host of Diaries of a Black Girl in Foster Care podcast
What is a Mandated Reporter?
A mandated reporter is a person who is legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to authorities. These can include teachers, medical professionals, law enforcement, etc.
Mandated reporting laws came into effect in the 1960s, and since then have become the center of child welfare policy. These laws obligate certain professionals to report on families for any suspicion of abuse or neglect or risk facing consequences themselves. This has led to overreporting of cases – of the 4.4 million referrals received in 2019, 2 million were screened-out or did not warrant investigation.
Ultimately, mandated reporting laws do not address the root causes of why a family might enter the child welfare system – lack of resources and support – and does nothing to provide access to resources that may help a family stay together. It’s time our policymakers recognize the detrimental effects mandated reporting laws have on families and listen to the voices of young people who experience it. Read more Letters to Mandated Reporters from other young adults who have
experienced the child welfare system below to learn more about their opinions, stories, and experiences.