For decades, educators have questioned mandatory reporting. Does the requirement to report any possible trauma in the homes of our students actually help children and their families? In every instance? When might reporting kick off a cascade of possibly harmful consequences? Many educators have been dismayed to see the intrusive surveillance, coercion and painful family separation that sometimes result from mandatory reporting, especially among marginalized families. What is truly best for our students?
Training for mandatory reporters often focuses on negative individual consequences of failure to report; it inadequately addresses child welfare’s harm to families, the bias and inequitable outcomes that characterize the system, or how reporting can be at odds with educators’ professional codes of ethics. Mandatory reporting destroys relationships that are meant to help kids, activates implicit bias, penalizes the vulnerable, interferes with child protection, and exacerbates problems without posing solutions.
For years, system-engaged families, public defenders, family court judges, social workers and others in child welfare have been calling for new tools and approaches. The term “mandated support,” coined by JMacforFamilies, outlines a more expansive approach and a broader menu of ethical options for caring professionals. As legislatures and organizations adopt this alternative approach, the AFT has developed an action framework on Mandated Support in Education.