Hi! I am a mommy to my 3 year old boy and step-mom to a 9 year old boy and a 12 year old girl. My husband works, often late, and goes to school, so they are under my care a lot of the time. My husband and his son live upstairs in an apartment and his daughter, our son, and I live downstairs due to space issues. We also have a lot of different ideas about parenting and lifestyle so a bit of seperation works for us. However, the older kids often prefer to stay upstairs, and the 9 year old goes in and out when playing and is sopossed to be checking in with me when he changes plans/where he is, for meals, etc. I can hear what goes on upstairs but still feel like i can't interact when they are up there. My question is, what are the legal issues as stepmom- if he is upstairs and cuts himself, am I guilty of neglect? If he does something dangerous and against the rules when he is out on his bike, am i responsible? If his father lets him do it, but i don't approve am i responsible? Also, my 12 year old SD is now homeschooling but my husband hasn't yet made it official according to state law, since she left school this fall. She stays up late and sleeps in and has no schedule. We have discussed this many times and my husband said he would make a place for her school up there and do things with her etc and he knows I am open to help. Am i responsible for her neglect? Am i sopossed to do more than make suggestions and ask, and try to include her in things?
my responsibilites as stepmom?
hi there metalgypsy, wow i have to say you are living in the strangest situation i have seen so far. are your apartments connected, like is it a house with two suites or is it an apartment building with lots of suites. i am not sure what the legalities are regarding the homeschooling in the state where you live. they should be easy to check out on line, and i guess if you are the one who is doing the homeschooling then it is a good thing to know what you are required to do and the curriculum that you may or may not have to follow. i homeschooled for four years but here in bc where i live there are no rules or laws for what you need to do as far as curriculum is concerned, they will either provide the government curriculum to you for free, along with a computer and the internet paid for a year. they also provide support programs with teachers and classes for things like science and physical education. there is a homeschool principle for the community and all the regular provincially required tests are performed and chaperoned appropriatly when student are in jr. or sr. high school levels. or you can make your own curriculum and still have access to all the same government programs and perks. you also have access to the same education resource library that the teachers in the disrict use to enhance their curriculum. your child also gets regular diplomas that are accepted at all accreditted universities and colleges. i dont think all states are that way, it would be great if there were a program similar to that where you are. homeschooling is becoming more main stream so you never know. but as you are responsible for her education at this point it would be best to know what and where you stand. you are responsible for your skids if their dad leaves them in your care, but you should ensure that you have their medical cards and maybe a letter allowing you to sign for medical care in an emergency, rather like some daycares do, well at least that is common here, and accepted as a legal document.
as for her staying up late and sleeping in late as well, does she stil get her work done? imo as long as she is meeting what is required of her in the household as well as in her schooling, then it really doesnt make a difference whether she does it at night or the afternoon or what time of day.
if your dh is working at night then your 9yo ss is rather young to be staying upstairs alone,unless it is a house with two suites and you have a door that you can walk right through and get to him whether it is up a flight of stairs or do you have to leave your apartment and getting up public stairs and opening an apartment door? if the latter is the case i might consider that all the children stay at your place until dh gets home and then dss can be moved upstairs or continue the night at your house. it doesnt matter if he starts out the night in your bed, and when you settle for the night, put him on the couch and either leave him there or move him. no judge would see anything wrong with that, it is common practice for single moms to leave their children in overnight daycare with the same conditions.
if the rules that you have when you are the one in charge and dh is away that ss is supposed to tell you where he is going and what he is doing, then he must do so or be disciplined in some way that you and dh find appropriate. this is a safety issue and dss has to follow your rules when you are the one left in charge. only you and dh can decide what would be appropriate, here i would take the priviledge of bike riding away for one day for the first infraction and then add a day for every other one that occurs. if you can hear what goes on up there and you hear him leave, go and get him and remind him of the rule and then depending on how well he has been behaving or following the rule or how long since it was made and explained to him, imo there has to be some lea way when new rules are made a quite a few chances and reminders but after awhile they should remember. a month is long enough in my view.
as long as they are not doing anything that isnt safe while they are upstairs and not breaking any rules and you are checking them often then i would think that could not be considered neglect on your part, or your dh's. some others might disagree, but they are bigger children and while still need supervision, they are old enough to be trusted not to use sharp knives or endanger themselves.
is their bio mom involved in their life at all, you dont mention her, so i am wondering if she is in the picture and how does she feel about the situation?
Edited by vivvysue - 1/29/11 at 4:00pm
Hi and . Your situation sounds frustrating! Maybe some communication is in order with the hubs (and their mother if she is in the picture) to get you both (all) on the same page and make sure you are properly supported since you are responsible for the care and feeding of the little ones.
I am a step mommy and my dear step children were about 7-9 when I came into their lives. My husband had primary custody so I was blending into their home. I was their primary caregiver as my husband and their mother worked full time and I stayed at home. I was responsible for their safety, care and wellbeing.
Finding the best solution for your family is what is important, but I will tell you what worked for me and maybe it can give you some insight. While I was not their "mother" and I didn't need to be, they had one, a wonderful one... I was still "mom". Ya know? I headed up the home, I took care of their needs, I helped them with their day to day lives. So yes, I was respected and seen as such. When my stepchildren played outside or at neighbors I asked them to check in with me if they changed it up. There is nothing worse than the feeling of peeking out to check up on your little ones and not seeing them in the front yard and not knowing they simply went around back to play. I think because I presented myself as a third parent in the family equation and I was supported as such it made the children realize that I was more than just the annoying adult living with their daddy. I think too, it also fostered our wonderful relationship and really attributed to the peace and harmony in our family.
I hope this works out for you and I'm sorry I cannot advise on homeschooling, I've never dealt with it. However I think that is something your husband needs to get on ASAP and maybe talking about that with him is something that can open up a dialogue. I do think it might be wonderful for you to get involved in her schooling. Perhaps the two of you together (you and your step daughter) can set up her school space? A trip to the library together can be an eye opener to what interests her and maybe it will be a great bonding experience! You ask if you are supposed to do more and I think that means you want to do more, so go for it! I've been there and done that so I know it can be scary, but really taking the plunge and really becoming a part of your step childrens lives is one of the most rewarding things you can do for you and your family.
One more for you!
I can hear what goes on upstairs but still feel like i can't interact when they are up there. My question is, what are the legal issues as stepmom- if he is upstairs and cuts himself, am I guilty of neglect? If he does something dangerous and against the rules when he is out on his bike, am i responsible? If his father lets him do it, but i don't approve am i responsible?
I'm not a lawyer, this is just my understanding of the law in CA:
California abuse and neglect laws apply to caretakers, which can be a parent, step-parent, relative, etc. If you are not providing a reasonable or adequate supervision to prevent harm, then I think you could be. If you are the responsible adult who has agreed to care for your step-son in his father's absence, you need to make sure you are providing reasonable supervision in your own opinion. Your husband might make different decisions when he is the responsible caretaker, but you need to provide supervision you believe is adequate when you are the one responsible for his well-being.
As for school, I believe your step-daughter's parents could find themselves in trouble if they haven't done what is legally required to make her "officially" homeschooling. CA has a compulsory education law and your step-daughter would be considered truant, as she is not attending school full-time in the eyes of the state (or in anyone else's eyes either, it seems) and doesn't meet any of the exceptions to compulsory education. That one falls squarely on the parents' shoulders, though, as far as I can tell.