I don’t normally read advice columns unless it’s Dear Roxeanne. But for some strange reason…or the fact that I was bored, I decided to read Dear Prudence from today’s Washington Post. Here’s the first question answered by “Prudence”;
My neighbors have two children, ages four and nine months, and the older child is profoundly disabled. For whatever reason, the parents have opted to keep him at home rather than placing him in a facility. They don’t have hired help, maybe for financial reasons. The dad works and mom is alone with the two children all day. Because the older son needs round the clock care, the younger daughter is constantly left alone. She doesn’t cry when she wakes up because she knows nobody will tend to her. Mom rushes through feeding, practically shoving food in her mouth, before going back to the older child. The daughter is at an inquisitive age, so she’s blocked off from the son’s bedroom, where mom is for the most of her day. The parents have babyproofed the living room and leave her alone there all day long. When dad gets home, the parents take turns sleeping in shifts so the daughter still doesn’t get a lot of attention. I try to take the baby out every now and then and it’s heartbreaking to see her so enthusiastic when I talk to or cuddle her. I would have called the authorities for neglect a long time ago if I didn’t know the special circumstances of the family, or how upset they also are over not being able to give their baby the attention she needs. But I feel bad for the little girl, and keep thinking that somebody should intervene. They are socially isolated so it won’t be difficult to figure out it was me who called. I’m torn between doing something for the baby, and wanting to support the parents who already have a hard time. Is there a win win situation here at all?
And here’s Miss Yoffe’s response;
This is a heartbreaking situation and you sound like a friend as well as a neighbor. You will not be harming this family by calling Child Protective Services. There is a child who is being neglected and needs protection now. These parents have been given an painful burden, but there are many social services that should be available to them, from relief caregivers to respite care, but for some reason, they have gotten themselves so isolated, they are not taking advantage of them. No one can be a caregiver 24 hours a day. Having the mother collapse will be of no benefit to her son, and not being a mother to her daughter will have profoundly damaging long-term consequences for the child. Picking up the phone and having the authorities intervene in an untenable situation sounds harsh, but doing it is the best way of supporting this family.
Are you out of your ever lovin’ mind? Why didn’t you advise the concerned neighbor to talk to her friends and try to help them get the services that are available to them. Perhaps their friend could do some of the legwork for their stricken neighbor and bring them helpful information to help out in their situation. Ask the pastor of her church to make a visit and offer help.
Bringing in the authorities will open up a whole can of worms. Not only would you lose the good will of your neighbors, but your friends could lose custody of their children. You would have to move because you would have become a pariah amongst your friends and neighbors. No one would ever trust you again.
Anyway, those are my thoughts…what do y’all think?