what they won’t teach you in school.

you are a mandated child abuse reporter.

you’ve been given a credential or a license or a piece of paper, and you must report suspected child abuse to the authorities.

and here is what they won’t teach you in school.

that you will call the authorities, and you need to have your ducks in a row.

who, what, where, when and why…names of people, siblings, etc. mother’s maiden name. birthdates.

and what they won’t tell you is that you’d better have a damned good reason for reporting.

most of all? you must absolutely convince the worker that you are mandated.

get their name, and the address where you will be sending the written report.

because, you must make both a verbal and a written report of your suspicions.

and what they won’t teach you in school is that you will feel like you are making a mistake, that you aren’t really sure because you’re not an investigator, and that you must convince the worker that you are convinced that. something is wrong.

when i was a school counselor in 1990, i made so many reports, that the workers practically held the phones away from their ears and said, “it’s linda vermeulen. who wants to take this?”

because. i simply would not take no for an answer.

and neither should you.

here is the failsafe way of getting the report to the right person. you’ve been taught this in school, but you may not know the tricks of the trade.

  1. address and stamp your envelope to the right agency
  2. have the child’s name, address, birthdate, siblings, phone numbers at hand.
  3. have the child’s mother’s maiden name at hand. you’ll need it, and this child may already be in the system.
  4. fill out the form as much as possible.
  5. put your name and information on it. sign and date it.
  6. as soon as the worker picks up the phone, tell them you are a mandated reporter, and need to report.
  7. ask them their name (you need it on the form)
  8. have the incident filled out already on the form, because when the worker starts talking to you, it’s important that you read the facts as you perceive it exactly how it is written. tell them the level of urgency needed.
  9. ask them when they will be able to investigate. write down what they say.
  10. mail the form as soon as possible. like, get up and walk to the mailbox.

what they won’t teach you in school is that this worker, with all his best intentions is busy. very busy, unfortunately. and unless you convey some urgency, your report will spin into the file of a bazillion other reports.

so. here’s the trick

the next time you hear about a suspicious incident you report. again. because, it’s the preponderance of evidence that finally FINALLY gets some agencies to act. even if you think this is the report is minutia…i assure you it isn’t. i’m not talking about being reckless, here. i’m talking about being the only mouthpiece some child might have. you are it. again and again and again, you must report. to the point of having hundreds of these reports under your belt. if you have been working in this field for any length of time, you will get to know these workers. get a clean, friendly level of communication with them. don’t be a pest, but keep at it. respect what they have to do, and convey that respect.

don’t waste their time. be prepared with the steps above. it took me a lot of times to figure out that i need to have all the information ready to go when i have to make a report.

if only one of those men at penn state had reported to the correct authorities, the monster who harmed all those boys may have been stopped. instead, they were in fear of losing their jobs or their positions or the respect of their colleagues so they could keep the machine going. and what did they do?

they sacrificed at least 10 boys. boys that could be mine. or yours. i read about the story in the headlines, and i sat here trying to type out a response for over an hour.

you. if you are not going to help, then get the hell out of the way. because i will. every time.

this isn’t vigilante justice. if you’re wrong, you won’t be injuring some person’s reputation. if it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

but if it’s right. you just might save a life.

and that, my friends…is your job.

I Am Not A Good Judge Of People

Both of my seat mates are asleep as I cross the continent. I’m on a flight from LA to DC, ending in Norfolk tonight. Nearly the same trip I took last year. Both on the spur of the moment, both with no clarity. My guy and I were having difficulty, and scared to deal with feeling that, I booked this ticket that had to be used or lost. So now I’m in the air.

And I try to divert myself by reading Oprah and drink a full can of real Coke, a treat I love, but mostly, my stomach is gurgly and I need the sugar.

My favorite part of traveling is people watching. I listen to couples, and watch children terrorize each other, and see the teen with Cerebral Palsy trying to escape his seat belt and I can relate. I am always in awe of how WRONG I am about people. My first impressions are incorrect, and I’ve proven it numerous times today.

I am on the BART at 6am next to a cranky looking woman. I take out some apples and ask her if she wants one. She smiles. She says yes she is starving. The flight attendant riding with us is stunning in 5 inch black heels, yet gives me tips on which elevator to take. She says her airline lets them wear comfy shoes in the air, but they want them walking through terminals in pumps.

My first flight. Young married man sitting two seats away. Reading “America’s Ticking Time Bomb of Bankruptcy”, and He never cracks a smile to anyone. Creeps me out with his book title.

Woman in pink. Lovely pink satin coat. Lovely pink roller suitcase. Starts screaming at air crew when she has to check her bag. She becomes a screaming, screeching hen.

As I get ready for flight 2, I post on Facebook that I’m sitting next to a sullen teenager and a weird French businessman. I am so wrong. And so delighted. It’s these moments that I appreciate my personality. My love of mankind. My ability to reach out.

Turns out, he is Persian. Reading from a book written in his home language. He says it’s a play. He is a playwrite. Heading to Toronto to peruse a site for a play he is in. He lives 5 minutes from my hometown. He came from Persia, between Iran and Russia, in 1979. Escaped.

She. The sullen teenager is from Virginia. Her parents divorced when she was 3. Her new father adopted her and has given her a wonderful life of travel and east coast schools, and LaCrosse, and she loves him. She is in 8th grade. She loves to read. We discuss electronics, 8th graders (I have one) and marathons. She tells me she never knew her dad, but he was a drug addict. But she is happy. And sweet.

Save for me opening my mouth to talk to any of these people, I would have erroneously judged the cranky girl, model-quality stewardess, sick child, normal guy, beautiful pink gal, sullen teen and French weirdo.

I drink my Coke. They must think I’m unhealthy. Or stupid because who drinks that anymore? They don’t know the miles I’ve run, the depths of my spirit, the hopes I still have.

And I get to the east coast with fresh eyes. This. This brings hope to me. First impressions? I’m not so good about that. And I am thankful for this.

Anybody here seen my old friend John? I just looked around and he’s gone.

Last night, John Mayer’s Playboy article hit the airwaves.  Apparently, he is quite the racist, no?  I know.  He’s John Mayer.  But, let’s call it.  He takes something further than it should go.  I can’t even repeat it here, though I’d like to.  However, besides the N word, and the sexual references that go with it, he also uses the word *fag*, and *sexual napalm*…(what is that?  all i see is death and destruction).  He gives us insight to a psyche that he wanted us to see. 

I’m concerned.  But not for the reasons you’d think. 

Has it crossed anyone’s mind that this interview was in Playboy, who espouses one of the most sexually degrading philosophies of all?  I’m no prude.  I’m just trying to wrap my mind around the outcry from folk who read a magazine that denigrates women?  I know.  You will say…”Playboy?  That’s one of the classiest magazines for that genre!”  Really.  How is stripping or posing nude for money or getting conned into nearby activities “class”?  But I digress.

Okay.  So stay with me here.  He apologized.  He said he was trying to be witty.  There are videos out there of his perfomance last night with apologies prolific.  The music in the background reminded me of a tent preacher…you know, music to stir the soul as he apologized, and cried.

This is not the problem.  Or the concern. 

The problem is that, in 2010, we are still having this discussion.  Maybe someone who is 32 years old can’t reference what type of reaction this brings up in me, someone nearly 20 years their senior.  Because, this isn’t the only issue we’re talking about here.

Before we knew why…

  • Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down when I was 9.  But I didn’t know why. 
  • I saw a Vietnamese child in Life magazine running.  She was covered in napalm, burning.  And, I didn’t know why we couldn’t save her.  Or help her.  Or something.
  • I was sitting in my typing class in 1971 or 1972.  I was in typing class because my teacher said girls could be secretaries.  And that’s all.  But I didn’t know why I couldn’t be a doctor, or why there were no boys in my class except my teacher.
  • In 1976, I was in a college class when a man said something about being “colored”, and two black women stood up and said, “COLORED!  What color are we???”  And because I didn’t know the word colored was a bad term, I watched in wonder at their debate.
  • in 1985, people had to be put in a bubble, no one could touch them, because their immune systems weren’t working.  And no one knew what this *gay plague* was.  And doctors and nurses had to wear gloves, hats, coats just to touch these men who were dying.  And my brother in law, a gay man who slunk down in shame moved to West Hollywood, acquired the plague, overdosed on drugs.  And I didn’t know why.  Why we couldn’t talk about it.  And I didn’t understand it.

But today.  Today we know why.  We are supposed to know better.

And if we know why, why did a 32 year old man talk about his cock like it was David Duke.  Does he know what this means?   Does he know about David Duke, and what he did?  And, this begs the question, does he understand napalm and the murder it meted out in the Vietnam war?  Which means, if he knew, and he knew why, and he still used the terms in an interview, then he is still ignorant.  Or, he is calculating.  Trying to be funny.  And.  How could this be funny?

Yes, he apologized, saying he hurt the ones who loved him.  But really.

He can’t possibly know why…could he?   And that is the most dangerous place of all.  I weep for the work we’ve done, and the work we still have to do. 

John Mayer.  Is he our mirror?