Wednesday, March 11, 2009
No right answer
Sometimes, there are situations with clear-cut rules but no right answers. As a teacher, I’m a mandatory reporter regarding suspected child abuse. Most of the time, children in abusive homes want someone to “fix” their parents…they don’t want their families torn apart. Sadly, many abusive parents are not “fixable.” Some are unable to make necessary life changes, some refuse to face their problems and some don’t care enough.
I view my classroom as a safe, nurturing environment…for some children, it may be the only comforting place they spend time. When a child trusts me enough to tell me his home isn’t safe, I’m faced with a terrible dilemma. I have to break the child’s trust by reporting what I’ve been told.
I know protecting children is paramount…I also know how complicated these situations truly are. Children reach out to me, because they want me to make their parents better people. My students are too young to understand the consequences of reporting to child services—they’re not thinking beyond their immediate need for Mom and Dad to be kind, caring people. They just want to be loved and safe…every child deserves those feelings.
I know that as soon as I’ve filed a report, their little worlds will change…maybe subtly, maybe forever. They may be pulled out of my class by angry parents, losing the only link to stability in their otherwise unstable lives. This is my personal struggle as a mandatory reporter—solutions are often no better than preceding problems.
I dealt with this situation recently and found out today that a student was withdrawn from my class. I’m devastated—this child has tremendous potential and innate kindness. Everyone keeps telling me I did the “right thing,” but I know there is no right answer, no burning truth, no satisfaction, just intense worry and loss…and that doesn’t begin to address what my student must be feeling.