Ask a Mentor: Getting Clear Information

Volunteer Question

In my case with "Susie," the mother often tells the dependency case manager (DCM) one thing and me another. This has happened at least three times.

She told me one afternoon that she needs a car seat and the very next day she told the DCM that her sister had loaned her one before the child was removed; so she is okay. That's one illustration.

Now I'm not sure what to believe the mother is telling me—either about what she needs or how things are progressing now that Susie, age three, is back in the home.

Mentor Answer

I'm sure this makes you uneasy. However, it probably won't help to confront the mother with this problem. Just ask questions which pinpoint or clarify what she is telling you.

For example, you could ask, "I want to be clear about this. Are you saying that you have no car seat for Susie at all and, therefore, cannot drive her anywhere?" She might then respond something like this, "I don't have one that I own and can keep for Susie. Right now I am using one my sister loaned me."

Some people just can't seem to provide clear, succinct information but don't really intend to tell you something untrue. But you will need to be persistent about getting clear information when an issue is involved that affects the safety and welfare of Susie.

Continue to be very observant of Susie—how she acts, what she says, how she plays and how she interacts with her mother—to judge whether her mother's reports about Susie are consistent with what you are observing.

If Susie is in daycare, the staff reports will be very useful to you in this regard also. Furthermore, as the mother becomes more comfortable with you and learns to trust you, she may become more straightforward in what she says. It is good that you are staying in contact with the DCM so that you can compare notes.

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