Dear Prudence, part deux

Two actual emails … re: last post …

Ms. Yoffe:

I am the single father of a severely disabled nineteen year old daughter. I happened to write a post on my blog the other day about offering advice to others within “our” community. Within the comments was a link to your column and the above referred to question.

I must say, many of us disagree with your take on it. The “neglect” is never defined, nor really described, and the act of calling social services often *does* “harm” families such as this one. Paying less attention to a child (and this is hearsay) is one thing, there is no claim that the daughter is dirty, not clothed, not fed, not loved, etc. No evidence of anything, really.

I responded in a blog post, if you care.


And her response …

Thank you for writing. You are obviously living this situation with dedication and devotion. The letter writer described a situation in which a 9 month old baby is left alone for most of the time in a baby-proofed room because the son needs constant tending. If the letter writer is correct, then the family needs intervention because a child raised that way is at risk for reactive attachment disorder. Obviously the parents are dedicated and loving people, but from the description they sound overwhelmed and worn out. It is not reasonable or realistic for two people to provide 24-hour care, 7 days a week, ad infinitum. They need the kind of help that might be available from public and private agencies. CPS is dedicated to making families function better, not tearing then apart. Yes, there are horror stories. There are also horror stories about parents who should have been reported, and weren’t. There are also stories in which CPS didn’t do enough. Then there are the times they assess the situation, make contact with agencies who can help, have a case manager for the family, and make things much better. Let’s hope that happens in this case. Surely, at the very least, the parents need some respite care and the chance to regularly devote some time to their daughter. You suggest in your post that the neighbor do some research about available resources and then sit down with the family to go over this. But the neighbor is not a trained professional, and the parents don’t have to take any helpful suggestions. Sure, it would be nice to organize the whole neighborhood to step up and give this family relief, but there is no mechanism to make that happen.
I do agree I should have taken issue with the line about keeping the disabled child at home, and it was a failing that I didn’t.
Thank you for writing.


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