Updated: Feb 5
According to Nikita Marsh, Professor of Social Work, you can stand in the gap between what the government agencies can do and where they are limited in the following ways:
Rather than calling a state agency to report possible neglect, ask yourself if what you’re noticing is poverty.
Contact the school to express your concerns and offer to help.
If you know them, contact the parents to offer support - but don’t “investigate” the family.
Pass along resources: names and phone numbers, information about financial and social support. Maybe there are health problems that are draining the family’s resources. Who knows, you might know someone who knows someone. Consider using your social network or using your time to make some calls.
Work with your PTA/PTO to develop a coat closet and food pantry at the school rather than donating items to Goodwill or taking them to consignment shops.
Share your social capital to help other parents build their network of support. You can do this through your PTA or by getting involved with extra curricular activities your kids are participating in. (check out the Facebook thread to see what other MAR moms are doing to share their social capital!)
Make a deliberate effort to diversify your social network. If you never have to collaborate with or include someone from a different background or financial standing, then you’re probably not growing or building awareness. Bias, like old habits, runs deep and is hard to unlearn.
Audit your own social capital and find ways you can help others develop theirs. If you were new to your area, you probably wouldn’t even know the right questions to ask. You might not know the weird quirks of “getting things done.” Maybe Mike is the best mechanic in town, but he’s not online. Helping your colleague who needs a mechanic find Mike-the-mechanic helps everyone.
Find ways to improve accessibility within your community.