Closing the Front Door of Child Protection: Rethinking Mandated Reporting.

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Date: March-April 2022
From: Child Welfare(Vol. 100, Issue 2)
Publisher: Child Welfare League of America, Inc.
Document Type: Report
Length: 6,374 words
Lexile Measure: 1500L

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Through an interdisciplinary and trauma-responsive lens, this article reviews the legal and social history of mandated reporting laws and family separation, examines the ethical conundrum of mandated reporting as it relates to evidence-based practice, and discusses alternatives to mandated reporting as a primary prevention strategy. Using existing and emerging data, the authors argue that mandated reporting as a universal strategy contributes to racial disproportionality in the child welfare system and that anti-racist practices should begin with an examination of our reliance on mandated reporting.

Mandated reporting laws were created to prevent child abuse and neglect across the country. However, the most recent National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4), which includes data on mandated reporting, conducted in 2010 (NIS-4, 2010), as well as a meta-analysis of qualitative studies regarding mandated reporting completed in 2017, shows no connection between maltreatment prevention and mandated reporting. In fact, to date, there has not been any published research suggestive of such causation. Despite there being no evidence to link mandated reporting to maltreatment prevention, the United States has seen a significant increase in maltreatment reports over the last several years (ACF, 2020). Although trends in child welfare have started moving toward preventative practice in theory, practically speaking, children are still being reported and removed from their primary caregivers at an alarming and increasing rate (ACF, 2020). This is especially true for families and communities of color.

The Institute to Transform Child Protection (ITCP), a program of the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, works toward a more effective nationwide child protection system to preserve families and prevent trauma through innovative policy and forward-thinking education and training. The initial activity of the Institute, and still at the foundation of our work, is the Child Protection Clinic, which provides holistic legal representation to parents who are involved in the child welfare system. We see firsthand the trauma that our systems enact on families and communities. We witness in stark relief the disproportionality of families of color, particularly Black families, cited in statistics. The work we do with families informs our policy and training agendas. Tracking a marked increase in the number of reports coming into CPS screening, we recognized a need for a new way to talk to mandated reporters about the ways in which they make decisions about reporting. Beginning in 2018, we developed trauma-informed and anti-racist mandated reporting training for professionals in educational and health care settings-from which 85% of reports emanate in Minnesota (Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2020).

This article mirrors the training we have now given to more than 1,000 mandated reporters in Minnesota and will give a brief history of mandated reporting laws, delineate the problems we see with the current culture of mandated reporting, and propose alternative strategies. In this paper, the use of the term White supremacist refers to "both an ideology and an historic political system ... Historic legal racial exclusion and exploitation created the contemporary system of racially inequitable social and political relations" (Nakagawa, 2021)....

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A698841079