“I believe in practicing prudence at least once every two or three years.” ~Molly Ivins

Thanks to Elizabeth, I now know who “Dear Prudence” is (aka Emily Yoffee) because of this comment on my last post. Several of you have commented on the Dear Prudence Q & A, as did I, but let’s look at it closer here.

First, the question:

Should I Call the Authorities on a Loving Mom?: My neighbors have two children, ages 4 years and 9 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 baby-proofed 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 then Prudence responds with her answer …

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.

Let’s look at the original question:

My neighbors have two children, ages 4 years and 9 months, and the older child is profoundly disabled.

Not sure what she means by “profoundly” … probably like our kids, but this says very little. How can response be based on not knowing the basics?

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.

“For whatever reason …”? Ummm, love? Parental obligation? Why did your mother keep you at home?

Because the older son needs round the clock care, the younger daughter is constantly left alone.

Define “left alone.” In a locked room? Outside the house? Out of hearing and sight? What does that mean? Define “constantly.” How can an opinion be offered on this?

She doesn’t cry when she wakes up because she knows nobody will tend to her.

She is NINE months old. How do you know why she doesn’t cry. Maybe she is content? How do you know this? Are you there every day? You are concerned that a baby is NOT crying? If yours cries everyday when she wakes up, at nine months, I’d be concerned.

Mom rushes through feeding, practically shoving food in her mouth, before going back to the older child.

Your point? What is the optimum time for feeding? And is feeding her part of the nobody-tends-to-her thing?

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.

She is blocked off from the son’s room because she is inquisitive? Not because there may be drugs there? Medical equipment? Her brother may inadvertently harm her? No, she is blocked off because she is inquisitive. Where is the problem here? The mom is there for most of her day? Are you peeking in the window?

The parents have baby-proofed the living room and leave her alone there all day long.

No one checks on her? No one can hear her? Is the living room worse than a daycare that leaves her in a crib? Do you clean the outside of the windows while peeking?

When dad gets home, the parents take turns sleeping in shifts so the daughter still doesn’t get a lot of attention.

One sleeping parent and one awake parent would mean more attention than two sleeping parents, no? What is your point? And, are you under the bed with a spreadsheet?

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.

Only now and then? Why is that if she is so enthusiastic? Why not offer a bit more help since that seems to be your point. You can be part of the solution, don’t you see that?

“Neglect”? How do you define that. There is always a parent at home, the child is fed, housed, dressed (I assume). You see her only “now and then” and other than your peeking in the window, how do you know there is “neglect.” There is always an awake parent in the house, “neglect”? When you take her out, you do not mention that she is not bathed, not healthy, nor any problem at all. What neglect?

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.

How nice of you.

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?

Yes, there is. Why don’t you talk to the parents and find out the truth? Why don’t you try to rally others from the neighborhood, church, or whatever to donate a bit of time? Why don’t you find out what types of services are available from the city / state, do a bit of research, and even anonymously put a note in the mailbox of places they may call for help with the son? Why don’t you do anything positive?

And what does Dear Prudie have to say?

This is a heartbreaking situation and you sound like a friend as well as a neighbor.

Misguided nosy neighbor vs friend … same thing I guess.

You will not be harming this family by calling Child Protective Services.

That is an outrageous statement by someone who has not dealt with these people. Often in can cause great harm, I have seen that first hand, especially when a severely disabled person is involved.

There is a child who is being neglected and needs protection now.

DEFINE NEGLECT! Where is the neglect?

These parents have been given an painful burden, …

How do you know? “Painful” … ouch.

… 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.

Ok, so they are not taking advantage of the services available so CALL THE AUTHORITIES! GET SOCIAL SERVICES IN THERE NOW!!!! Or, um, tell them about the services? NO, IT IS NEGLECT!!! SEIZE THEM!

No one can be a caregiver 24 hours a day.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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.

Um, there is a father. They sleep in shifts, she is not alone. And maybe you would “collapse” but who says she will? And now she is “profoundly damaging” her daughter? First, what the f**k does that mean? Are all bad mothers (not that I am saying this woman is one) “profoundly damaging” their kids? I am missing something here.

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.

Right, so much better than offering help, learning more, offering information. Right, CALL THE AUTHORITIES! GET THE TORCHES! “Untenable” for you maybe, but maybe not for this family.

I think we need to tell Ms. Prudie (as she is called) (aka Emily Yoffe) that she missed the boat on this one. She’s not even near the shore.

You can email her … prudence@slate.com

I will gladly post here anything she may have to say.

(original article here)

Comments

  1. By annie

    Reply

  2. Reply

  3. By Eric

    Reply

  4. Reply

  5. Reply

  6. By robin

    Reply

  7. By Jo

    Reply

  8. By Jo

    Reply

    • By Ivy

      Reply

      • By Mr. Ed

        Reply

  9. Reply

  10. By Eliza

    Reply

    • By Lindsay

      Reply

      • By Single Dad

        Reply

        • By Lindsay

          Reply

          • By R

            Reply

          • By annie

            Reply

  11. By jwg

    Reply

  12. By Lindsay

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.