Rethinking the Community Response to Child Neglect
in the 21st Century From Mandatory Reporting to Mandatory Supporting of Families Amy Jantz Templeman and Romero Davis
Introduction Keeping children safe and families strong is a shared responsibility across communities, as we all benefit from child and family well-being. This vision of a 21st-century child and family well-being system that fundamentally reforms child welfare as we know it was described by the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in its report Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect. 1 The commission called for a public health approach to child and family well-being that promotes equitable solutions and brings public and private partners together to coordinate resources that support families. This 21st-century system includes child protection but is not limited to it, as it extends to all systems that help to bolster child and family well-being. The national strategy described by the commission offers a bridge between safety and well-being, promoting the concept that strong families are safe families. Perhaps now, more than ever, a system that proactively supports families outside of child welfare agencies is critical, as families across the country experience increased stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on economic security, health, and well-being. Right now, child welfare is at a moment of reckoning. Reckoning with its history of systemic racism, over-reporting of people living in poverty to child protection, and its structural design that too often removes children from their families and “regulates and punishes Black and other marginalized
people.” 2 Leaders, advocates, organizers, and constituents are calling to defund, abolish, or, at the very least, transform our current system. There is national and state momentum to reform mandatory reporting as part of a move toward a more equitable child and family well-being system. Some have called for repurposing mandatory reporters into mandatory supporters who link families with supportive services before suspected harm occurs and a call to child protection is determined to be necessary. 3 New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services hosted a webinar in March 2021 to announce changes to its local mandatory reporting system, while Idaho and Texas are considering legislation to narrow the reporting of child abuse and neglect allegations. 4 Experts are concluding ______________ 1 Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities . 2016, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, http:// www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/cecanf-final- report. 2 Roberts, Dorothy. “Abolishing Policing Also Means Abolishing Family Regulation.” The Imprint , 16 June 2020, https://imprintnews.org/child-welfare-2/ abolishing-policing-also-means-abolishing-family- regulation/44480. 3 Louge, Claire. “Mandated Supporters.” Prevent Child Abuse Arizona , 7 July 2020, https://pcaaz.org/ mandated-supporters/. 4 Fitzgerald, Michael. “New York City Child Welfare Chief Calls For Changes to Mandated Reporting System.” The Imprint , 15 March 2021, https://imprintnews.org/child- welfare-2/child-welfare-chief-calls-for-changes-to- mandated-reporting-system/52710.
82 | FIJ Quarterly Spring 2022
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