Throughout the years, we have collectively struggled with balancing the empowerment of mothers with the well-being of children. Our experience has taught us that there are tangible and positive ways to create environments and responses where mothers are empowered to reclaim and redefine their parenting and at the same time support the well-being and needs of children and teens. It is particularly important to build a safe and fair environment for women to speak freely while ensuring they understand the parameters of your confidentiality. Advocates need to share this information with women so they understand what the rules are. For advocates to be effective, we need to know what to do with information, when to share it, how to share it, and with whom to share it. Protecting adult and child survivor’s privacy, supporting a woman’s right to control information about her family, asserting confidentiality and other legal protections, and meeting mandated reporting requirements are all part of the broad category of “information sharing” issues. Fully understanding your legal obligations under your local and state laws and working within your agency to develop protocols for making reports to child protection will assist you in decision-making. If a report needs to be made, consider how to partner with moms to make the report, and be sure to report what steps moms have taken to protect their children and children’s resilience as well as identifying issues and problems.
As we struggle to develop information sharing policies and practices to encompass work with battered women and children in the child protection and juvenile court systems, it is important to consider agency policy issues and inter-agency protocols as well as internal practices.
Use these Questions to revisit your program’s practice
Child Abuse and Reporting:
- How do we define what constitutes child abuse and/or neglect?
- Are our child abuse reporting policies and protocols articulated to both adult and child service users in appropriate ways at the onset of services?
- What is protected and what is not?
- What happens when the children’s interests and mothers’ interests differ?
- How will our program determine if a child is in danger? If a child is in immediate danger, how will the agency respond?
- What will our program do beyond compliance with mandated reporting requirements?
- How will we support mother’s protection and parenting of their children?
- What resources could our program offer to assist survivors in their role as mothers?
- How will cultural considerations change our advocacy?
- Does our program work closely with mothers when reporting child abuse whenever possible?
- Does our agency provide advocates with consultation with supervisors or managers prior to making the report?