Take A Deeper Look

When I arrive to school,
And there aren’t any soles on my shoes,
Understand that it may not be
Because of the way my mom treats me.
When my hair is knotty, and nose snotty,
It may not mean I am being handled naughty.
When I cry of hunger it may make you wonder-
Am I not being fed and deprived of slumber?
While these things could be, please look at me
And ask, “could I cause more damage if I proceed?”
Sometimes it’s not abuse or neglect,
Or a lack of compassion to correct.
Shoes without soles ‘cuz my momma can’t find a good paying job.
So, it’s one less thing to make her heart ache and head throb
Stomach empty, hair knotty.
Eyes glossy and nose still snotty.
Instead of calling CPS,
Could you ask me if I would like some rest?
Or maybe some food or hug,
Something to help me feel unplugged.
Because it’s deeper than reporting what you see.
My family needs support so we can be free
Of bondage that life has forsaken me.

Mariah, Educator

This is a poem I would give a mandated reporter. 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.

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.