I have a sneaking suspicion that this question may be too argumentative, so let's try to keep things civil around here.

A relative of ours on my wife's side had a baby two months after we did (he was born in December 2009). The boy, let's call him Anthony, is just the sweetest little thing, and our son Bryan loves to play with him. His mother is normally a decent mother, at least compared to Anthony's grandmother, but has been caught doing some, shall we say, less than ideal things. We should also specify that Anthony's mom is a little mentally-challenged, so she needs help too.

She has a tendency to move around to different relative's houses, refuses to help them with rent payments, and comes to my wife and I to ask for money, "for the baby." We consistently refuse, and offer to buy goods instead, which she generally declines. On one occasion that we know of, she spanked her son (two months old at the time) for unknown reasons, and she often leaves him with the other relatives she is staying with in order to go out partying, often staying out until 3:00am.

My wife is understandably enraged by this behavior, to the point where she is thinking about calling Child Protective Services. I have considered this, but even when the mother is not home, Anthony is well taken-care-of by the relatives they happen to be staying with at the time. In addition, we both know such a thing could cause a gigantic rift between us and most of her extended family.

What should we do? We are afraid to not do anything for fear that harm may come to Anthony, but I don't think we have a case to present to CPS, and in any case I'm not sure I want to be the cause of such trauma to our family.

asked 26 Feb '10, 19:32

Matthew%20Jones's gravatar image

Matthew Jones
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edited 18 Dec '11, 10:47

Tammy's gravatar image

Tammy ♦♦
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Your profile suggests you live in Arizona, USA, so the relevant information you need is here:

https://www.azdes.gov/main.aspx?menu=154&id=2030

If not (or for someone facing a similar situation) you can almost always find your CPS office by doing a web search for "Child Protection YourLocation" - so the relevant New Zealand service can be found with http://www.google.com/search?q=new+zealand+child+protection

From the website:

Arizona law requires certain persons who suspect that a child has received non-accidental injury or has been neglected to report their concerns to CPS or local law enforcement (ARS §13-3620.A). YOU may be a child’s only advocate at the time you report the possibility of abuse or neglect. Children often tell a person with whom they feel safe about abuse or neglect. If a child tells you of such experiences, act to protect that child by calling the toll free Arizona Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445).

Reporting Information:

WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT?

When a parent, guardian or custodian inflicts or allows the infliction of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment.

  • Physical abuse includes non-accidental physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns, cuts or other injuries.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when sex acts are performed with children. Using children in pornography, prostitution or other types of sexual activity is also sexual abuse.
  • Neglect occurs when children are not given necessary care for illness or injury. Neglect also includes leaving young children unsupervised or alone, locked in or out of the house, or without adequate clothing, food, or shelter. Allowing children to live in a very dirty house which could be a health hazard may also be considered neglect.
  • Emotional abuse of a child is evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or improper aggressive behavior as diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist, and caused by the acts or omissions of the parent or caretaker.
  • Exploitation means use of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian for material gain.
  • Abandonment means the failure of the parent to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child, including providing normal supervision, when such failure is intentional and continues for an indefinite period.

You don't detail what the abuse is, but this page goes on in detail as to what a report involves.

If you are still unsure, contact Child Protective Services. You can do so without giving them any information that might cause an investigation, and instead ask specific questions regarding your situation. They will guide you on the correct action, and the likely consequences.

If the abuse is not severe, they may not act on it now, but having the report in their system means that if it does get worse, then they will have a pattern on file that may help them help Anthony in the future, if not now.

link

answered 26 Feb '10, 21:08

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Adam Davis
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edited 27 Feb '10, 05:53

2

+1 for suggesting calling CPS to ask questions.

(26 Feb '10, 23:30) cat_g

I would err on the side of caution. You have concerns, and it's reasonable to raise them. I can see four outcomes, broadly speaking:

  • The CPS believes you don't have anything to worry about, and never follows up. No harm done.
  • The CPS investigates, potentially listing you as the person who raised the concern (I don't know how anonymously the CPS works), but eventually decides there's no need for action. At worst, some family strife.
  • The CPS investigates and believes there are minor but significant concerns. Perhaps Anthony's mother gets some extra help, parenting lessons etc. Again, family strife but hopefully Anthony has a better life in the end.
  • The CPS investigates and believes there's a serious concern, with all the consequences. Quite possibly major strife, but again that needs to be balanced against Anthony's (hopeful) benefits.

I don't know anything about the system in Arizona, but I would definitely advise against sitting on your hands about this. Admittedly this may be a biased view from someone having child safety drummed into them through nursery governor training, but I think it's better to be safe than sorry.

This is all assuming that you've tried other means of raising your concerns - have you spoken directly to the mother about them? I can see how it's intensely awkward, but it does sound like someone ought to be talking to her seriously about this.

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answered 26 Feb '10, 20:03

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Jon Skeet
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edited 27 Feb '10, 10:02

+1 for acting with caution and speaking to the mother first.

(26 Feb '10, 20:09) Phil Seller

There's another possibility that must be considered: That there are really minor concerns that could be addressed by extra help, parenting lessons, etc., but CPS reacts, as you say, "with all the consequences", totally screwing up the family.

(26 Feb '10, 22:19) lgritz
2

@Igritz Given I am in Canada and not the US but in my experience CPS (in Canada CAS) are more likely to under react vs. over react and they always as Jon stated offer support including financial assistance and parenting lessons etc... and children are removed as a last resort. You can also as others have said always call with a "hypothetical situation" and they will direct you on how to proceed.

(27 Feb '10, 01:09) Tammy ♦♦

I'm not saying "don't call", just pointing out that Jon's dissection of all possible cases left out a really important one that should be taken seriously. I've never dealt with CPS myself, I'm sure they do their best and are at times necessary, but there are certainly horror stories of involvement of CPS that took good families a long long time to extract themselves from.

(27 Feb '10, 06:30) lgritz

This is a slightly left field answer I have a another suggestion in addition to talking to the CPS.

Here we have some really good organisations that run really good parenting courses/seminars aimed at all parents. I have gotten a lot of out of the ones I have attended. I am not sure about where you live. But if there are could you invite her to go to one with you or your wife? This may then give some openning to discuss some of the issues or it might help her with some tips and advice. If you said you were thinking about going as you thought it might help you with your parenting and then say to her does she want to come along.

I said it was a left field answer.

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answered 27 Feb '10, 04:27

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K D
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edited 28 Feb '10, 04:38

I've been thinking about this question since you posted it, it hits kinda close to home considering the addictions, abuse, and general effed-up ness of my younger kids extended family on their Dad's side.

Leaving the baby with trustworthy extended family when she goes out partying, not neglect, but not responsible parenting, either, leaving the baby in the back of the car while she goes out partying, neglect.

Spanking isn't against the law, (a 2 month old!!! Sweet Mother of Jesus!!), on this continent, parents will fight to the death to defend their right to administer corporal punishment on their children. Both of my older boys got a smack on the bottom, exactly once each, when they were about 4 and did something so outrageously naughty, defiant, and downright bloody dangerous that I lost hold of the frayed end of my patience and they caught it. Not in any possible way my best parenting moment, definately the worst, and one I have vowed will never be repeated with my younger kids. (But, I've also learned that we'll see what happens, when they run out into the street pushing their sibling on a ride on when the clear definate rule was "don't cross the sidewalk", or deliberately push the other one into a creek immediately after being told to be careful, it's dangerous. I still have nightmares about those incidents. I know, I'm rationalizing my own bad behaviour, but, Jeez, kids!)

All that being said, I think your wife is right, I think she's seeing the beginning of a terrible downward spiral of neglect and physical abuse that will probably get worse as that little guy gets older and parenting him becomes even more of a challenge if your relative doesn't get the help she needs to become a healthier mom.

She doesn't have the tools. From your comment about her own mother, and the fact that she has personal challenges, she might not even realize that she's missing them (which will mean helping her get them will be tougher), or if she does realize it, have no idea how to go about getting them (which will make it easier to help her).

You're her family. You are going to have to talk to her. Not give her shit for being a bad Mom. If you're judgemental in any way at all you'll lose her. Talk to her about what her childhood was like, talk to her about how she wants things to be different for her little guy.
Tell her how you can see how much she loves him, tell her all the things she does that show you that love.
Tell her you know she's doing the best she can with the resources and tools she has.
Tell her you'll help, but not with money, you need your money to raise your own child.
Tell her you'll help her find anything she needs, state support, a place to live, therapy, parenting classes. Tell her you'll help her find these things for free, it's out there, you just have to look for it.
Tell her you'll baby-sit while she's accomplishing these things, but you won't if she's going out with her friends at night.

The most important thing?
Tell her you love her, and her baby, and you want them to have the amazing life together that they both deserve so much.

It's a lot of work so try to get as many of the trustworth members of your extended family onside as you can.

If there is actual drug or alcohol addiction involved, (and look into that, the wanting to "borrow" money that she says is for the baby, but not taking the diapers she says it's for? My kids Great-Aunties who've battled their own addictions would be throwing around some pretty telling looks at that behavior!) scrap everything I've said up until now. In that case, tell her that you or someone in the family that's already agreed to it will keep the baby until she's completed an in-patient rehab, and that she has a 2 days to get her ass to one, or you're calling child services and they'll take him from her, maybe for good.
And to hell with anybody who gets upset about it.

Sometimes being a member of a family is more about shoveling muck then Christmas card pictures, that's okay, the people we love are worth getting a little dirt on our faces.

link

answered 28 Feb '10, 16:31

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Neen
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Child Protective services is there to protect the child. And to keep families together, They rarely remove infants because of bonding issues with the mother, unless they absoulutley have to. It also has wonderful programs for families. Please call them to have this mother monitored as she is raising a defensless child who will react later in life to what she did to him. Put you own pride aside because this is your family. The one family member who needs you the most is helpless in defending himself. You have to step in or insist that this situation be monitored. I had to do it with my own family! They hated me surely! But the out come was so much better for the children, and they are all doing great now together. Everyone needs some guidance at some point in their life,,she might need more since she is disabled or what ever special needs she might have. We can't be there at all times to monitor and teach parenting skills. Please call them!

I think everyone should look up (google) infant abuse and it will surprise you what happens to infants who are taught fear, and who do not bond with the mother because of abuse. It is very scary what happens to these little ones. Abuse in infants can have a more lasting effect on how this child will be as an adult. They sometimes will never bond with another person..ever! We need comforting experiences as infants. It can be detremental if we don't get this in early months from our mothers! Please read up on it! Because this mother has hit her infant infront of others,,remember she might be worse when noone is looking. You are not certain as to what this baby has endured! Stop protecting her because you are just as at fault if you don't report it! And in Arizona,, if you know of it,,you can be arrested if anything happens to this child now because you did not report it! Good luck and please call for the babys sake and future children this woman could end up having. She needs monitoring!!! The damage had been done..please don't allow it to go any further. When you read up about infant abuse..I am certain you will come to your sinces and call. Please call!!!

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answered 13 Apr '12, 16:34

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edited 13 Apr '12, 18:46

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Asked: 26 Feb '10, 19:32

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Last updated: 13 Apr '12, 18:46