I was 7 months pregnant and I just worked a 10 hour day at my preschool practicum (that means I paid money to work for 10 hours with 30 children). I got home, exhausted, to find a card from Social Services in the door with a note for “Samantha Palmer-please call”.
A million thoughts ran through my mind. I truly couldn’t think of anything I had done to cause a visit from social services. Sure, I’ve yelled at my kids, or threatened to take away all their toys, or sent them to their room, but nothing that most other mom’s wouldn’t do. Still, I panicked.
I called the number on the back only to discover the office was now closed for the weekend. Nope. That wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t be able to sit and stew for 48 more hours. I called the emergency line (this was an emergency-I was going to go insane if I didn’t have answers) and finally figured out what the problem was.
ME: “Hi, I got this card from you guys asking to call. I’m wondering why?”
DISPATCHER: “Were you at Safeway on Friday night with your daughter? There was a man there who said he saw you both and noticed some bruising on the small of her back when she bent over. He said that the interaction between the two of you didn’t indicate there was any abuse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else in the family couldn’t be hurting the child or yourself.”
ME: “Bruising?!? Oh! You mean the Mongolian Spots??”
Mongolian Spots are caused when pigment doesn’t make it to the top layer of skin while the baby is forming. It’s common in bi-racial children and very much resembles bruising. It goes away with time, but as small children it’s quite obvious.
Fortunately, in this case, I had those Mongolian spots documented at her birth. I was able to tell the dispatcher the exact location of the “bruises”, which was verified by our doctor, and the investigation was ended.
As I thought about that night at the grocery store I started to realize which man exactly had reported me. He was a nice man with a son. He sparked up conversation a few times throughout the store. We chatted in the lineup. He walked me to my car (where he took down my license plate to call in). I just thought he was a nice guy.
As fate would have it, my partner and I were in the same grocery store the following week. We got what we needed and were waiting in the lineup to pay when who should walk up and stand right behind me? The man I figured had reported me. I started to shake. My body went cold. I knew I had to confront him.
We paid for the groceries. I sent my partner to the car to put them away, and I waited outside for the man.
ME: “Hi. I think you may have reported me to social services last week.”
MAN: “Ummm.. Uhhhh..Ya, I did, but you see, I…”
ME: “Thank you.”
MAN: “You’re welcome?”
I explained the situation to him and could see the relief on his face. He told me he thought I was a good Mom, but he couldn’t take the chance that maybe someone else was abusing her, and maybe I was in trouble, as well.
There are ever-ending stories circulating the news of families being accused of terrible things and their lives being turned upset down because of calls to social services. I don’t think these accusations should be taken lightly, and any reports must be made with great delibertaion. Considering the circumstances in our story, however, I truly believe the man was doing what he could to keep my daughter out of harm’s way. The “bruising” on her back indicated that she could be potentially in danger, and for him this was the only way he could keep her safe.
We need more people like him in the world: people who are willing to advocate on a child’s behalf and have their safety as a main priority and who are willing to work together with families to grow a happy and healthy child.
It truly takes a village to raise a child.