Throughout Rise’s series on schools and child welfare, parents describe how school reports to child protective services took them by surprise. Sometimes, the calls were made without sufficient cause. Other times, problems at home escalated when schools were not willing or able to adequately address a child’s behavior problems. Even for families who got help, the trauma of child welfare involvement far over-shadowed the benefits.
Here, Asia Piña and Crystal Baker-Burr, a social worker and an education attorney at The Bronx Defenders, warn parents that some schools may call in reports far more quickly than others. They suggest ways parents can navigate challenges and improve their relationship with their child’s school to avoid unnecessary reports.
Many parents at Rise have described how their child’s school denied their child testing for educational disabilities or supports to help a child learn in school, even when the child was clearly struggling. Then, when problems escalated, the schools called child protection.
There are organizations and people who can help parents get the help they need, when they need it. In NYC, Advocates for Children provides advice and legal aid to ensure that low-income families have access to quality education for their children. Promise Project helps low-income families properly evaluate their children for learning disabilities and get the services they need.
We spoke with Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children; Lillian Murphy, senior project manager at Promise Project; and Lorenzo Torres, supervising education coordinator at Promise Project to find out about children’s rights and the IEP process.
Last November, The Huffington Post published an article that documented how some schools misuse reports to child protective services. These reports were done to pressure parents to send a child with behavior problems to a different school or to agree to a school’s recommendations for services.
Most school personnel don’t make reports maliciously, but the reporter, Caroline Preston, a senior editor at The Hechinger Report, said she thinks mandated reporting laws contribute to these kinds of calls because “there are pretty significant consequences to not reporting, and many fewer consequences to over-reporting.”
Here, Preston tells us about the parents she interviewed—and all the parents who reached out after her story was published to say they’d had similar experiences.
My story is about how my son’s school came into my life and changed it in a way that I don’t know if I can ever be who I was before.
It’s about how I got arrested. Lost my job. Have sleepless nights.
A part of me has been stolen.
If I had the power, I would let the system know that child protective services needs to do proper investigations. Don’t label me without knowing me.
I live in the South Bronx. In my neighborhood, there are a lot of investigations. If I lived elsewhere and my son went to a different school, I think this would have never, ever happened.
September 20th, 2018 was the worst day of my life. My kids were removed from my custody because on September 19, 2018, my boyfriend used corporal punishment on my younger son.
He did it because my son flooded our new apartment and the basement three days in a row by removing a piece from the toilet. After the third time, my boyfriend hit him with a belt, leaving red marks on his back and arm.
The next day, my son went to the school nurse. When they asked him what happened, he said he fell down the stairs, he went into a wall, he got beat up. He came up with like six different stories. Because he had so many stories, the school called me and then they called child protective services.
I felt terrified. I also felt betrayed. For a year I was asking for help for my son’s behavior and nobody was willing to help.