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Considering calling DHS on a friend :(

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hi, 

I am a long time MDC user -- but am posting under a different account to remain anonymous . I am a homebirthing, homeschooling, cloth diapering, extended nursing, cosleeping, attachment parenting mother of 3 girls. I, like most of you I suspect, have a fear that someone will call DHS on my family -- and we will be under scrutiny for our alternative parenting practices. And we read all of these horrible DHS stories here on MDC. It is a scary thought. So for me to be saying that I am considering calling DHS on my friend -- things are really bad. :( Please offer your thoughts -- without judgment if you are able. I am really torn in this situation.

 

The bottom line is that my friend's home is really disgusting. :( Now, I have 3 kids -- so there are days when the dishes pile up and I have 3 baskets of laundry on my own couch at the moment. So I am not talking about a messy house. I am talking about filth.

 

Here are some concrete examples: the floor is covered in rubbish and crumbs of food, the bottom of the refrigerator is dark black from children standing on it and reaching for food with filthy feet. The kitchen counter is covered in dirty hay (bedding from their various critters they have inside). The bathroom toilet is often backed up and rather than dealing with it, they leave it for days and days. The door handles are covered in sticky goo and I am afraid to touch them. The family almost always sleeps without sheets straight on a mattress. The bedroom is covered with piles and piles of clothes -- and the smell is really bad. I suspect there is mold or something growing on them. There are many rooms in the house with only cement floors -- including the bedroom. There are beer cans everywhere (and I can't help but worry about a little person picking up a can and slicing their sweet little fingers on them!). The working bathroom is beyond filthy -- I doubt the toilet has been cleaned in months. The toilet is black with filth and there is trash and clutter in the sinks. The tub is virtually unusable -- it is hard to imagine a child getting clean in there. There is dog food spilled on the kitchen counter and the floors. 

 

Now, this is not a case of a poor family. They own a home in a rich neighborhood -- they probably make about 80,000 a year (about twice what my family lives on).

 

So these sweet little girls live in this environment! It makes me sad! Now, many friends of this woman have gone in multiple times and gotten things cleaned up -- only to have the house back in the same horrible condition only weeks later. Many of us have talked to her, given ideas about how to set up a cleaning schedule, offered to keep her girls so she could clean, and offered to help her clean. Her husband's family also lives in town and while they are appalled, they have kind of given up -- having done the same cleaning help that friends have done.

 

So the question is -- should I call? Would it make things better or worse? I can't stand the thought of these sweet little girls (who are good friends with my daughters) living like this. It really breaks my heart. Would DHS take the girls away if they saw the house? Because my friend is really an amazing mother -- she just really stinks at housecleaning. :( And I don't want the kids taken from her. But I wonder if this would be the rude wake up call she needs to finally make some changes. 

 

Ok -- please give me your thoughts. I need some perspective here. Would you be appalled by this house? Would you call? Would you keep it a secret? Or fess up? Help please!

Thanks, 

 

Julie

post #2 of 24

I have been in the place of wanting to make that call myself. The situation was different - the parents were drug addicted and I kept their kids while they tried to kick. When they were unsuccessful I had to make a decision. I talked to several friends who had been removed from their parents care as children and not one of them thought it had been a good thing. They all wished they could have stayed with their parents. ( I don't think this would be true with serious physical or sexual abuse though) I ended up not calling and returning the kids. I wondered for years what had happened and finally reconnected and after a brief stint in jail the parents cleaned up and this story had a happy ending.

I wish there was a way you could let them know someone is thinking of calling - that people believe the mess is serious enough to warrant that call - and get them to shift what they are doing without actually calling. An anonymous letter or phone call perhaps? A talk with the kids and teaching them to clean up? It would be a shame to have them end up in a potentially worse (physically unsafe, as foster care can often be) situation.

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the perspective. I am sure these girls wouldn't want to be separated from their mother either. I wish there was a way of getting her some help without the threat of removing her kids. 

post #4 of 24

You are a good parent for being concerned about this safety of the kids.  

 

From what you describe, it seems like this could be something of a mental health issue with mom, and that's going to be a tough thing to remedy in the long term unless she agrees to some kind of counseling.

 

But in the short term, DHS is not your only option.  You can also call the Department of Health in your area.  Depending on where you live, there may be an office in your state's capitol, or there may be a county office.  

 

Either way, I'd alert someone and follow up on it.  It's unlikely that any agency is going to come in and immediately remove the children.  I think its more likely that she would be given some kind of deadline to clean up by, and then have her home reinspected.

post #5 of 24

can they afford to have someone clean every week?

post #6 of 24
This is most certainly a depression-hoarding problem. There but for the grace of God go I. I would see if the mom is open to exploring treatment for that.
post #7 of 24

I agree with Ellien. It seems like there's the root of a problem that keeping a clean house is really just a symptom of--rather than being the actual problem itself. I've found, in dealing with my own postpartum depression, that these aren't things women easily talk about. Instead, we try to hide being overwhelmed and it can manifest in so many negative ways.

 

I hope somehow, your friend can get the help she needs to feel better.

post #8 of 24
Make the call. No child should grow up in filth.. to do so harms them on a psychological level and they may turn out like this themselves because its all they have ever known. greensad.gif
post #9 of 24

I agree, ask around for a patient housekeeper to recommend to keep things tidy after another deep cleaning gets done. And let your friend know things look really bad and she needs to uncover what is keeping her from taking care of her home, counseling or at least some soul searching, get it across to her that somebody will end up calling if it isn't you. I don't know if they'd take her kids, recommend services (most are for people who don't have means of their own), keep checking in to hold her accountable, or what. It could be the wake up call she needs but maybe a caring friend warning her of it could help without resorting to social services.

post #10 of 24

If you call DHS, all they're going to do is start to make a case against your friend. If you want the children out of the house then call. If you're just going to try to give mom a "wake-up call" then I wouldn't put that in the hands of a government agency. I hear that you don't want the kids living that way, but you also don't want them living without mom. To me that would say don't call. I understand from your post that you and others have helped to clean up the house before, and it just reverts. Have you ever talked to her about what it would take for her to do it herself? I mean, besides a cleaning schedule. Plus, what are her reasons (excuses) for allowing not only herself, but her *children* to live that way? You say she's a good mom. But, a good mom keeps her kids healthy, safe, and raises them right. Having terrible living conditions like you describe (animal feces on food prep surfaces, unusable restrooms, and possible mold where the children are sleeping) doesn't do any of those things. I agree with the previous posters who say that this woman might need mental help if she is allowing her family to live this way. I would say that maybe some sort of intervention on the part of you and her other friends is necessary. It obviously doesn't help to just take care of her mess for her. It's wonderful that you all are there, and care about her and those kids, but I think you guys need to figure out what kind of help would really benefit her long term.

 

To answer your questions: Yes, I would be appalled by that house. I probably would not call. If it was someone I was very close to, I would try to help out however I thought would be of use. But, I also would be unable to subject my own children to that filth. I've had friends with what I consider unsafe or gross environments before (MUCH milder than what you're talking about in your friend's home) and I have stopped taking my daughter there. If for any reason I *did* end up calling DHS on someone, then I certainly would NEVER tell ANYONE that it was me EVER.. not family, concerned friends, or even my DH. If I was the catalyst that ended up shaming a family publicly, and potentially ended up ripping them apart, then I don't want to be the target of any backlash from anyone.. my guilt would be bad enough.

post #11 of 24

What´s your relationship like with her husband/ partner ? Any chance , you might be able to talk to him and see , what the root of the issue is ? 

Or , if they go to Church , someone there , you could confide in and who could gently approach the subject and see about getting them some assistance 

Because from what you are describing , the underlying problem may very well be some form of depression and she needs help for that , but I wouldn´t go the DHS route quite yet

They might only make matters worse , instead of better !  

post #12 of 24

What a terrible situation for everyone to be in! It seems like there are not a lot of good options. Calling DHS may or may not mean the children would be removed. I think that sort of things varies from place to place. It would, however, definitely open a case and the potential for the children to be removed is very real. I agree with others that it sounds like the mom needs some kind of professional help. But  know that if she seeks help she is still likely to get reported, as medical professionals and social workers are mandated reporters. I wish I could offer some advice, but I would be really as torn over this as you are. It is absolutely wrong that her children are living like this, but being removed from the home may not exactly be right. Honestly, I kind of lean toward making the call, but I can see why you would be hesitant to.

post #13 of 24

i wouldnt call.  not for a dirty house.  i grew up in a dirty house but it was MINE in the family i felt i BELONGED.  ive also worked with families who have had their kids taken away and i firmly believe that unless there is real abuse or SERIOUS neglect then the children are most likely in a situation that they still have the strength to overcome it.  these children will not have their souls broken from a depressed mom in a dirty home.

post #14 of 24

If she is a good friend, and otherwise a good mother and you don't feel the kids are in immediate danger, then I would sit down and have a heart to heart with her.  Tell her your afraid that someone might call CPS on her and that you know the kids would just be heartbroken over that. And then just listen and see she hints at what they underlying problem is.  Hoarding, mental illness, depression, just not good at keeping a clean house.

 

If you feel the conditions of the house do leave the kids in immediate danger, then I guess you have no choice but to call:(

post #15 of 24

I don't think this is a situation of a "dirty house."  This honestly sounds like there is some danger and pathology going on.

 

I would call with the vibrant hope that they can hook your friend up with some resources that could permanently improve both her life and the lives of her entire family.

post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaInTheDesert View Post

If you call DHS, all they're going to do is start to make a case against your friend.

In my state, there is no "making a case" or "beginning a paper trail" like there was pre-2001 or so.

 

Cases are investigated and sealed unless there is a court-ordered review.

post #17 of 24

We dealt with a friend like this and DHS didn't take the kids away.  But because they didn't take the kids away she felt her house was fine.  And it wasn't.  I know that they were called at least 4 times and they came out each time looked around and left.  Her other friends helped her keep it up each time.  So the place was decent until DHS stopped coming by.  Just because you're concerned doesn't mean others (friends) are going to let it things go bad if they know whats up and have already been helping her.  This is definitely something beyond a messy house.  The mom needs help.

post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaInTheDesert View Post

 Plus, what are her reasons (excuses) for allowing not only herself, but her *children* to live that way? You say she's a good mom. But, a good mom keeps her kids healthy, safe, and raises them right. Having terrible living conditions like you describe (animal feces on food prep surfaces, unusable restrooms, and possible mold where the children are sleeping) doesn't do any of those things. I agree with the previous posters who say that this woman might need mental help if she is allowing her family to live this way.


I agree.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by superspatula View Post

i wouldnt call.  not for a dirty house. 

 

To me the OP isn't describing a "dirty house". I think, at the very least,  children deserve a bathroom they can get clean and eliminate in safely, a countertop to make a pb&j on without pushing aside animal droppings, and to live in a home that isn't strewn with "beer cans everywhere". Sounds like mental health and possibly substance abuse issues -- and while I don't know as I would call as my first reaction, just by the information the OP's shared, no way I would call this mom a "really good" mom.

 

It's difficult not to judge when someone (I assume by the info OP has provided)  has been helped time and again by concerned friends and family members, has financial resources and caring people in their life,  and still refuses to care for their children the way they deserve.

 

 

post #19 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by McGucks View Post

In my state, there is no "making a case" or "beginning a paper trail" like there was pre-2001 or so.

 

Cases are investigated and sealed unless there is a court-ordered review.


Not in all states.  In Missouri, it can take multiple calls before they go out to investigate.  We just went through classes to become foster parents, and unfortunately that is very common. 

 

Even if the OP calls DHS, they don't usually remove children unless they absolutely must.  Most likely, the parents in this situation will just be offered help and the chance to clean things up, and then after return visits if they refuse to cooperate and clean up their act, THEN they will remove the children until they do so. 

 

I would call.  Honestly, NO children that are removed from their home say it was a good thing.  Do you really expect them to?  In our training class we had the chance to sit down and talk to a teenage girl that was removed from a very abusive home.  As much abuse that she suffered, even SHE said she wished they weren't removed.  Usually removing children is in their best interest, and gives the parents the time and energy to focus on what they need to fix and to get it done.  If the children need to be removed, then they SHOULD be removed.  Simple as that. 

 

post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by NikonMama View Post

Not in all states.  In Missouri, it can take multiple calls before they go out to investigate.  We just went through classes to become foster parents, and unfortunately that is very common. 

 

Even if the OP calls DHS, they don't usually remove children unless they absolutely must.  Most likely, the parents in this situation will just be offered help and the chance to clean things up, and then after return visits if they refuse to cooperate and clean up their act, THEN they will remove the children until they do so. 

 

I would call.  Honestly, NO children that are removed from their home say it was a good thing.  Do you really expect them to?  In our training class we had the chance to sit down and talk to a teenage girl that was removed from a very abusive home.  As much abuse that she suffered, even SHE said she wished they weren't removed.  Usually removing children is in their best interest, and gives the parents the time and energy to focus on what they need to fix and to get it done.  If the children need to be removed, then they SHOULD be removed.  Simple as that. 

 


This.  I work in law enforcement, and I have worked with both adult and children's protective services in similar situations.  While I completely understand not wanting to involve governmental agencies, it seems that other avenues have been tried - and failed.  This is not a knee-jerk reaction by the OP; it's obvious that you and others have tried to help your friend.  I also agree that it sounds like your friend has some underlying mental issues.  She is not providing a safe and healthful environment for her children, and it goes far beyond being a poor housekeeper or having a higher tolerance for a bit of mess.  Some things fall into that category.  It's not harming the children to have bare cement floors, laundry in piles, or no sheets on their beds, even if many people find that distasteful.  It IS harmful to live in a house with feces and trash laying about, bad odors, and sharp metal where small children could cut themselves.  I also agree with those who said this could be psychologically harmful to the children; anyone who has seen the children on Hoarders can attest to this.  This woman and her kids need help.

 

Because you (and others) have tried to help numerous times, I would call DCS or the health department.  The environment is not safe for children.  FWIW, I don't believe that would take the children away from their mother in a situation like this.  They are not being physically abused, and I'm assuming that their parents do not have a substance abuse problem.  If the utilities are on, there is food in the fridge, and the children are reasonably clean, the children stay where they are (or if the house is deemed uninhabitable, the entire family leaves and stays elsewhere).  In my jurisdiction, if children DO need to be taken out of their home environment, they are placed with family or friends whenever possible.  I know there are horror stories out there...  But the fact that you are even considering calling on a friend of yours says to me that you think something is really wrong, and it's bigger than you and the rest of your friends can handle on your own.

 

To answer your questions directly...  Yes, I would be appalled.  Yes, I would call someone.  No, I'd never tell.  I have (unfortunately) been in a position where I felt obligated to call on a family member (no utilities and small children in a home with drugs/drug use as well as domestic violence).  It was not an easy thing to do, but after numerous attempts by family (including offers to take the children temporarily), I felt it was the only option left. DH called, but nobody will EVER know it was us.  It would tear the family apart...  Thankfully SIL thought it was the school.

 

Best of luck as you deal with this, mama.  It is not an easy decision, and I hope you can be at peace with whatever you decide.

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