When Does Bad Parenting Become Child Abuse? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 01-01-2010, 11:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I know this is a somewhat ambiguous question, but there is a situation in my family that is irking me. My cousin is a very bad mother. I believe she got pregnant simply for the attention. Her daughter is now 1.5 yo. My cousin has had psychiatric issues all her life, diagnosed with bi-polar for many years now. She has had drug problems most of her life too. Her husband has had a cocaine addiction; his parents both have Hep. C from heroin addictions.
So, the behavior I'm most concerned about is that my cousin screams at her little girl all the time, and has her so rigidly scheduled that if the exuberant child does not nap when she wants her to, she will literally let her scream in her bedroom with the door closed. She has to live on a militant schedule- everything scheduled, structured. She does not believe in affection, and gets furious when people want to hold her, and show her physical comfort, for fear that the child will become accustomed to being held a lot. The little girl is frightened of her mother. Her father is no better. He works over night, and has nearly nothing to do with her. When he isn't working, he requires NO noise in their tiny apartment, from 3pm till 11pm so that he gets his sleep, uninterrupted. The girl has to be silent. Fortunately, the girl has just started daycare for 10 hours a day, away from her crazy mother.
Meanwhile, my cousin now has her days free to do drugs. She posts about it on her facebook page all the time.
Is this child abuse? As a firm believer in AP, I hate the thought of this poor little child suffering. My cousin and I have a very checkered past; we never see eye-to-eye. She literally despises me. I want to help my niece, but I just don't know how to. As I mentioned my cousin's disorder, she does not talk things out. She flips out, loses her mind, whenever anyone tries to tell her anything. She's ready to fight at any given moment. Is there anything I can do, especially involving the law, without revealing my identity?
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#2 of 23 Old 01-01-2010, 11:58 PM
 
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If she is doing drugs and still under the influence of them at any time she has custody of her daughter, that is absolutely illegal, and you have a responsibility to contact CPS! Next time she posts something like that, call CPS, I believe you can ask to remain anonymous, but I'm sure someone else can give better details on that. I hope that little girl can be placed in a better home with some love to share ASAP!

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#3 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 12:04 AM
 
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Well, doing drugs is illegal whether she's around her daughter or not, so you could report her to the police for that.

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#4 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 12:06 AM
 
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I'd probably call CPS in this situation. Child neglect at best I would think. I'm sorry there's a little girl going through that.
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#5 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 01:35 AM
 
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The only thing you can do at this point is contact CPS with all the information you have on the child and her family, and let them take it from there. It sucks, and it does sound like what your cousin is doing does meet the legal definition of child emotional abuse.

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#6 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 02:39 AM
 
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I just wanted to say that I hope the best for the poor girl. Do what is right and let the consequence follow.
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#7 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 05:02 AM
 
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If she is posting about illegal drug use on her facebook you can send the link to your local police station. I agree with other PP's drug use is a problem that should be reported.

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#8 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 05:29 AM
 
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Itotally agree. Report her and then call CPS to get her out of that home NOW before it is too late. Your cousin could flip her lid and seriuosly injure your niece. I have bi-polar and I know whithout my meds. I can be kinda on edge but I always put my children first before my needs. All children need love andaffection to grow up strong and healthy. I would report her or give us her info and one of us will. That baby needs help ASAP.

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#9 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 10:33 AM
 
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I agree with the others, call CPS, tell them everything you know. That is neglect and abuse, and the poor little girl needs help ASAP.
And report the drug use to the police with links to the facebook page with evidence.

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#10 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 12:18 PM
 
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The drug use is illegal, and I would report it - if she is posting about it on FB. Print out the page and bring in a copy. As for the rest - I think it's horrible parenting, but I don't think it's abuse.

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#11 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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While I agree that her behavior is inappropriate (and borderline abusive), ask yourself if her daughter would be better off after calling CPS. If she was removed from the home, where would she go instead? If you think she would be better off placed in foster care, for example, then make the call.

I'm only saying this because I went to school with someone who ended up in foster care/group homes after being removed from home and it became a worse situation. At least at home, she had other family and friends who cared. Lesser of two evils unfortunately.

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#12 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 12:44 PM
 
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Calling CPS does not involve instant removal of a child from the home.

-pixie, my dear, and (A-88), N-98, Littlest-06/00-08/00, J-03 & Little Miss Cotton Ball Button-03 (SN), S-05, Hope-loss 09/09, Bean-loss 04/10, and littlePopcorn due feb. 8th -11.
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#13 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 12:50 PM
 
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If she's under the influence of drugs and has her daughter.. that's illigal period. Emotional abuse is child abuse; neglect of course is child abuse; then of course physical and sexual abuse. You could make a report online, and only give this information or call *although they will pry for more info, just refuse and say " I think this child's mother is under the influence of drugs, the child is at risk. please check it out, I'm staying anonomous for my own safety. Thanks" Give childs name, mothers name, and address. That is it.

You're not going to be able to change your cousin, at all. BTDT. See if she needs a babysitter, if you are up for it. From experience, I can tell you that if you are a free babysitter, you will end up with the child.. and once she goes off on a drug binge, you can get "protective custody" of the kids while either 1. mom gets help, or 2. mom fails, and you take your neice.

I hate to say it, but these situations do not end well. Hugs and prayers to everyone in this!

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#14 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 12:51 PM
 
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Yes, I'd call and report it. You don't have to judge if it's child abuse/neglect. All you have to do is *see* that something isn't right and CPS will make the decision.

Even if drugs weren't involved, it doesn't sound like a very happy home. This little girl must live a life full of fear.

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#15 of 23 Old 01-02-2010, 01:31 PM
 
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Poor little girl...I'd call.
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#16 of 23 Old 01-03-2010, 01:26 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCMama01 View Post

I'm only saying this because I went to school with someone who ended up in foster care/group homes after being removed from home and it became a worse situation. At least at home, she had other family and friends who cared. Lesser of two evils unfortunately.
It's traumatic to a child no matter what....they don't understand. However if CPS is brought in, then the mother can be given a chance to be the parent she needs to be, and if she does not respond, then hopefully someone in the OP's family can take her in. It would likely be in the best interests of the child...even though sadly sometimes a foster home isn't necessarily better (some do fall through the cracks) but in this case, it really should be done.

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#17 of 23 Old 01-03-2010, 02:33 AM
 
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PLEASE call someone and help this poor child! This IS abuse....hand down.

That child needs love and affection...she is going to grow up and be a horrible person if you don't step in and help her now.
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#18 of 23 Old 01-03-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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I fully agree that the situation is not a good one for that little girl.

But you can't just "forward the police the facebook link" and expect that she will be found guilty of doing drugs.

First of all, she'd have to give the police access to her account to even see her status updates, they are private. Somebody suggested printing out a page, but that's not very reliable either - I could edit a printed page in about three minutes to make it look like she was saying anything I wanted it to, so I don't think a screen grab allegedly from her FB page could be considered incriminating evidence.

I'm not sure that her posting "I'm high as a kite right now!" on FB is enough to prove that she was actually using illegal drugs, or be grounds for removal of the child, anyway. There's no evidence that it's true.
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#19 of 23 Old 01-03-2010, 01:08 PM
 
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For the drug usage, absolutely call CPS but nothing else that you posted is child abuse. Perhaps not something that you believe in but definately not child abuse. CPS would not remove a child for getting screamed at, schedules, etc.

single mommy to identical twin girls (3/06) Non-traditional mama just : through life.
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#20 of 23 Old 01-03-2010, 03:40 PM
 
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Ditto everyone who's saying you should print out her facebook updates that you feel indicate drug use. And if she ever overtly states she's used drugs, ESPECIALLY if she says she's used at home, you should print that out too and report to both the police and CPS.

Not only is drug use illegal period, but having drugs in the home or being under the influence of drugs when you're caring for a child fits most states definitions of child neglect.

It's also possible some of how she screams at her child (having unrealistic expectations about a child's ability to just "nap on schedule" and then punishing the child for not meeting those expectations) also could be child emotional abuse or emotional neglect, but that is a lot more subjective and depends on who you get on the phone when you call it in.

It's awful that a child is being expected to obey boundaries that are totally and completely unrealistic for a 1.5 yr old child (being totally silent for an entire day... napping on an exact schedule and then punished for not following it). Having love and affection and bonding kept from her is also so sad, but unfortunately it's a choice a parent can make and is not something anyone can dictate.

One more thing: I think it's important, especially if you really really want to help your neice, that you not only pay attention to what her parents are not doing well, but that you also acknowledge (maybe even to your cousin herself!) what they DO do well. They are providing a home, food, clothing, and structure, which are VERY good important things for parents to provide. Dad is employed. She's now in daycare, and yes it's bad if Mom now does drugs all day, but if Mom had enough sense to not use while her child was home all the time, that also is a GOOD thing. You have to be able to acknowledge (to your neice, your cousin, her husband) what's good too in order for them to be more open to hearing what they might do better/differently, whoever it is that talks to them about that.

Best of luck, I hope your neice, cousin and their family benefit from your concern.
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#21 of 23 Old 01-03-2010, 06:13 PM
 
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Well, leaving aside the stigma of mental illness and moral judgments about drug use, what you are basically talking about is emotional abuse, and the damage to the child is emotional damage.

And so you have to ask yourself whether the emotional damage really, truly is greater than permanently and completely losing all contact with both parents would be. No, it is not guaranteed that that will happen if you call CPS, but it is a possibility you are definitely flirting with if you do call. Once you open that door, you can't close it if you realize your local agency is over-aggressive and goes too far. It's out of your hands. There is almost no emotional damage possible to a child greater than actually losing the parents. For this reason, one should be very, very hesitant to call unless the problem is actual physical abuse.

Are there any other relatives you can recruit for an "intervention" so to speak? To make it clear, in a controlled manner, that the mom has to get help for her problems, or you *will* call? If she is crazy and out of hand, you shouldn't care if she knows it's you or not; the relationship is pretty much shot anyway. She doesn't have to agree or like it; she just has to know that you're serious. Then, if she doesn't clean up her act, you can call. But just anonymously dropping a dime when a little girl's whole future relationship with her family is at stake? Nuh-uh.

As for the drugs, she's probably self-medicating. In and of itself I don't think it's a huge issue, however distasteful you may find it. High-functioning drug addicts can raise children without endangering their physical safety, because the reality is, after years of use you don't really get that high anymore, you just do it to self-medicate and stave off withdrawals. I really think trying to get her on a drug charge with the police is the wrong way to go. All it may do is bring extra stress to the household without improving the little girl's situation. When a person gets arrested, the most obvious and immediate thing that happens is just huge financial stress: bail, lawyer, trouble holding down your job, court fines. And when people who are struggling face that kind of stress, it doesn't help them be more loving. What does that do for the little girl? And if we all called in the drug users we know because "it's illegal!!!!!" then we might as well be living in East Germany with the Stasi.

In any case whatever you decide to do, please try to drop your judgment toward your cousin; if the story you tell is accurate - serious mental illness, chronic drug addiction - she's not doing stuff to be evil, she's doing it because she's ill.
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#22 of 23 Old 01-03-2010, 06:20 PM
 
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In any case whatever you decide to do, please try to drop your judgment toward your cousin; if the story you tell is accurate - serious mental illness, chronic drug addiction - she's not doing stuff to be evil, she's doing it because she's ill.
and needs help and is not getting help for herself.

We have a similar ongoing story with a relative and though CPS has been called numerous times, they monitor and try to watch her and the child via the various shelters they have been in and now via Head Start but the child has NEVER been taken away, even though CPS thoroughly acknowledges that it is an unsafe and unhealthy environment for the child. Calling CPS ~might~ get her some help (and a way to pay for it) but the child likely won't get taken away.

I say call. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that that child might never have been cuddled in her 1 1/2 years.
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#23 of 23 Old 01-03-2010, 06:39 PM
 
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I'm a foster parent and have taught children from at-risk families for years. The child might very well be taken into care, although it could be a relative placement if one was willing and able. And sometimes, having a child taken into care (or have the possibility arise) is what a parent "needs" in order to turn her/his life around. I've seen it happen many times
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