so embarrassing, social workers detained me in the subway threatening to call the police - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 12:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is so embarassing. I was on the way to an attachment parenting meeting too. I was in the subway with my two kids in a stroller.

What i did: (and i dont condone it, but it wasnt that bad).
Threw 2 yo ds' coat at him, and said in a raised, stern voice-stop throwing your coat out of the stroller! I put my hand on him very lightly which would have looked like a push, a very light one. I didnt actually push or hit him, because i dont believe in doing things like that. I do not hit or push my kids. Yes, I should not have raised my voice, shouldnt have put my hand on him in a threatening way, shouldnt have thrown the coat at him (it would not have hurt) ...should have kept my calm after he had thrown his coat out of the stroller for the nth time.

Here's what happened next-two women came over to me saying they were social workers and that they were mandated reporters. One woman said she wanted to talk to me.

The thing is, i was in a hurry as it was. I wasnt in the mood for a lecture from a total stranger, telling me things i already know and believe. First mistake.

I said, im in a hurry, sorry, i dont have time to listen to you.

She grabbed my stroller and wouldnt let me go. She then threatened to call the police.

Wow! I was so incensed, my blood boiling. Has anyone stopped you like that, effectively detaining you? A total stranger? Are social workers allowed to do that?

I raised my voice to her, and said let go of my stroller!
She said, alright, ill call the police then.

In the meantime, both boys , 2 and 5, start crying.

I said to her, you are making them cry. You must let go of my stroller, you have no right to do this!

So i asked my son, why are you crying. He says, mommy, i want to go.
See! I said to her, you mare making him cry, please let us go.

She said, you could make him say anything,
and then said, i cant let you go until you calm down.
I said, i understand what youre trying to do, but you are not helping here.

Eventually, they let me go only after i had to stand there and pretend to not be extremely incensed at them, and simply not say anything at all

As i left, i said, you are abusing your power.

So they followed me to the elevator, I said, stop following me!
One of them kept threatening to call the police, the other one seemed smarter, and just said, have a nice day.

I cant believe this happened. What do you think?

(flame me if you like for losing my cool with my 2yo, maybe i should have just listened to the social worker, but do i have a legal obligation to do so? )
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#2 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 12:59 PM
 
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You poor thing. I'm so sorry that happened!

Your story has angered me a little, as I so clearly remember what it was like to watch people truly be physically and verbally abusive to their little ones on the train in NYC, while knowing that saying something was likely to escalate the violence.

I don't know what they hope to accomplish by taking such an aggressive tactic- if you're a good parent who is caught in a bad moment, or a lousy parent caught in a normal moment, I don't think anyone is likely to respond well to such bullying. I *know* there are kids who desperately need non-parental advocates, but it seems like an awful idea to approach it like that.



eta: If anyone encounters something like this, call the police yourself! No one who isn't a law enforcement officer has the right to unlawfully detain you!

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#3 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 12:59 PM
 
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I hope you don't get flamed for it... but that sounds like an altogether horrible experience... I hope everyone is feeling better now

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#4 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:00 PM
 
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I'm pretty sure social worker or not, she had no right to grab at any part of you or your children. I personally would have said "if you don't release my stroller holding my child, I will call the police to report you for attempted assault & battery". Nothing you did was illegal...people are allowed to yell at their children. And tossing a coat? Ok, unless you wailed it at him and the zipper hit his eye, I can't see that as abusive. A bit out of control, possibly, but abusive, no. And unless they showed you their badges, they could have been any wackadoodles...why on earth would you have any reason to believe 2 random strangers claiming to be social workers actually were.

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#5 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:00 PM
 
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If someone was trying to physically restrain me from moving (by grabbing the stroller containing my children), I'd probably be the one threatening to call the police.

Seriously! I mean, it's not like you were hitting your kid! Were they really going to say "Hey, officer, we have a woman who threw a coat over here. Take her to the slammer."

I mean, it's unfortunate that you lost your temper, but that happens to everyone from time to time... I would understand if the parent had like, hauled off and slapped a kid across the face. But getting upset about a coat is hardly grounds for police intervention *rolls eyes*... I would have been tempted to tell them that if they don't get their hands off me and my kids I would be calling the police to report them.

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#6 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:04 PM
 
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I seriously doubt they were real social workers. Real ones would have (should have) at the very least, given you a name and a business card, and actually should have called the police if they thought there was need. Real social workers wouldn't have handled it like that.

I'm sorry they did that to you.
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#7 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:06 PM
 
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I can see how it might have looked from their side of the fence. Someone who is a mandated reporter felt that this was a moment to intervene in what she perceived as a situation of potential danger to a child. We've all seen less-than-stellar parenting moments when out and about (witness all the "Should I have said something?" threads.) So she wanted to talk to you. So far, so good.

However. The manner in which she spoke, the way she grabbed your stroller and the threats to call the police, and the fact that she followed you, were way out of line. The woman had no business doing that.
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#8 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:09 PM
 
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Seriously! I mean, it's not like you were hitting your kid! Were they really going to say "Hey, officer, we have a woman who threw a coat over here. Take her to the slammer."
Haha! Right? I'd love to see that. It would never happen.

I've been there a few times with the whole being overwhelmed, in public, judged by random strangers and I know how awful it feels. Don't beat yourself up over it. I swear it's always the 2-year-olds that make me feel overwhelmed.
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#9 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:12 PM
 
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Can we make a law that social workers must have children of their own? Mothers get angry at their toddlers. Tossing a coat at your kid is hardly abuse. Seriously, this is why I never show anger towards my toddler in public. I'm afraid of some busy body calling the police. It happened to my mom once when my four year old brother ran across the street and almost got hit by a car. She freaked and picked him up and yelled at him and someone called the cops on her for abuse! The cop let her go immediately but still. I would be very angry if I were you. I'd like to see those social workers wrangle two young children on the subway! OP I'm so sorry this happened to you!

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#10 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The thing is, im always on the side of someone interfering to help a child. When there really is abuse going on, what is the best course of action? All i know is, being spoken to by a random stranger, when youre feeling angry and in a hurry (like i was) is the last thing you need.
I thought about it later, and i wouldnt have minded (in the name of principle) if she walked along beside me while i went to the elevator, saying something like, 'when you feel this angry, take a deep breath, its hard dealing with 2yo's, but throwing his coat at him, and raising your voice doesnt help....etc etc etc', i dont know. I wouldnt have minded, only because i agree that she was trying to help in principle, even if her advice would have been annoying, because ive heard it before.

Sigh...thanks for your words of support.

I wanted to call the police on her too, but basically, i just wanted to get out quickly, and not waste more time.
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#11 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:19 PM
 
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I would not believe anyone claiming to be any authority figure without ID shown. And even if they were social workers, they would have no legal right to do what they did. I am sorry you went through that.

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#12 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:21 PM
 
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I seriously doubt they were real social workers. Real ones would have (should have) at the very least, given you a name and a business card, and actually should have called the police if they thought there was need. Real social workers wouldn't have handled it like that.

I'm sorry they did that to you.
I also don't think for a minute they were social workers. They were strangers who lied and tried to force themselves on you and make you feel like crap.

Just to make you feel better, I've had strangers try to interfere with my parenting before. One guy said he was on some "safety committee" I'd never heard of and tried to tell me that my child shouldn't be doing what he was doing (standing in a grocery cart which was not moving...he was there so I could hold him while I was talking with a friend.) Then, I was walking around with my 3mo daughter in a bucket. She usually wasn't in one outside the car, but I didn't want to wake her for a quick trip. The woman kept telling me that my daughter shouldn't be int here and that it was bad for her She was following me around and I was very uncomfortable...unlike my sleeping daughter.

I've never had anyone restrain me. That's ridiculous that they were trying to gain power over yo with a made-up "authority." Even a real social worker would not have the authority to restrain you.

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#13 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:22 PM
 
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I am also a mandated reporter and what you did does not seem worthy of threatening to report. That woman's reaction was way over the top. My reaction when I see a mom exasperated is to offer any help that I can. In your case, I may have held the elevator door and smiled at you. To be honest, I may have stayed close to you for a moment to make sure nothing escalated, but sometimes the kindness of a stranger can turn your whole day around.

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#14 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:26 PM
 
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I'd say it isn't the fact that they intervened, it was how they did it. They could have made the initial approach with some sympathy and humour instead of being so confrontational. I would think truly professional social workers would know that it's easy for a situation to escalate, particularly when they are being stickybeaks with strangers. They recognized that you were under stress. Confronting and accusing wasn't likely to defuse the situation at all. A sympathetic comment and a little understanding would have been enough to remind a stressed mom to step back from the situation a little and maintain her cool.

If she is a social worker, then it doesn't sound like she's a particularly good or effective professional.
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#15 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:29 PM
 
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Wow, I'm sorry that happened to you. I think all of us have been there with being frustrated with a toddler and being a little harsher than we otherwise should - but it in no way is the same as endangering or abusing your child. I think what a real social worker in that situation might do is talk to you calmly "Wow, I can see you're frustrated. that age can be hard. Do you need some help getting your kids and stroller off the subway?" etc and struck up a conversation like that. Or, as a PP said, stay close and watch and listen to see if things seemed to be escalating. As others have said, I doubt they were really social workers. If something like that happens again, you should be the one to call the police.
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#16 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:30 PM
 
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I can see them intervening if it seems like you're not able to keep your cool, but I think that they went about it the wrong way.

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#17 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:33 PM
 
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I don't think they were social workers. If they are i am AFRAID for this world! Throwing a coat is abuse now? I would have called the police myself just to see how they handled my being accosted by strangers for throwing a coat. I am not saying one CANNOT do harm - if you whipped at a face with a zipper or something...but tossing a coat at a kid and telling them to hold onto it...nope, sorry, i think they were stickybeaks, frightening ones at that!
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#18 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:35 PM
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You should have asked for id and then said you were calling the police. Physically touching you or your children is assault. I would think physically detaining you would be too.
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#19 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:37 PM
 
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I find the most helpful strangers are the ones who make silly faces at dd when she's acting up or getting bored. I've had people do that when I'm in line at the grocery store. The best is when total strangers dance around like a monkey . that way they are showing you that they like children and that they are trying to help lighten up a stressful situation.

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#20 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:40 PM
 
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You should have asked for id and then said you were calling the police. Physically touching you or your children is assault. I would think physically detaining you would be too.
I believe that physically detaining and preventing someone from leaving, at all, could be considered abduction, but I'm not positive on that point.

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#21 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:41 PM
 
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Okay, whether they were real social workers or not aside, I am absolutely stunned at people's reactions to this thread! How many times on here has someone come on and said something like, "I was on the subway today and there was this adorable little 2 year old in a stroller and he kept throwing his jacket out (which is TOTALLY age appropriate!) and his mother picked it up, threw it right at him and yelled at him!!!!! I think she poked him as well! I could not believe it! And what is even worse is that no one around her even tried to intervene. If she acts like this in public I can't even begin to imagine what she is doing to that poor child at home." Many, many, many times! Everyone would be responding, "Oh that poor child," or "that must have been terrible to witness mama!" But because it's "one of our own" then all of a sudden it's no big deal? What a horrible double standard! I am not even saying it is a big deal. Have I lost it on my kids? You betcha! Everyone has bad days and everyone does and says things that they regret. That is not my point. My point is that I am just appalled at the double standard. And I am a mandatory reporter (and a student studying to be a social worker) and if I saw someone looking very angry, yelling and throwing a jacket at a BABY, yes I would be obligated to report. It is illegal (at least in Ontario) to strike a child with an object and throwing a jacket at one qualifies.

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#22 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:43 PM
 
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If someone was here complainingg about seeing what the mom described herself doing, I'd probably tell that person to mind their own business, too. And I really doubt tossing a jacket at a child would be considered striking them with an object, but I don't live in Canada, so who knows?
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#23 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:45 PM
 
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There would also be many advocating that things may not be as awful as they appear and encouraging people to give her the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully this thread reinforces that line of thought.

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#24 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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And I am a mandatory reporter (and a student studying to be a social worker) and if I saw someone looking very angry, yelling and throwing a jacket at a BABY, yes I would be obligated to report. It is illegal (at least in Ontario) to strike a child with an object and throwing a jacket at one qualifies.
Seriously?
I would hope that the law would mean that you can't strike a child with a belt, switch, or paddle. Not that you can't strike your child with any object. If a jacket qualifies, so does a baseball you toss for practice, a magazine you throw across the room to your kid, and a french fry in a food fight. You might want to check your interpretation of the law. Meanwhile, I'll avoid Ontario.

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#25 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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Yes, be very sure Heavenly that the same people are posting in this supportive thread as would be coming out with flames of judgement on the others! I would not come on and agree that throwing a coat was tantamount to assault and the poor baby and yadda yadda. But sometimes i read those horrible judgy threads and i don't post at all, because there seems to be no point swimming against that tide, when no-one who really cares is reading anyway. And FWIW i've seen plenty of "Oh my the POOR CHILDREN" threads end up being more "get over it, no-one was harmed it was just someone else's bad day up close" too.
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#26 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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Um, I'm pretty sure I know exactly where you were from your description of where you were going, etc. I pass through there almost daily. I think, truly, that they were busybodies with no authority of any kind. Plus if you were on the subway platform, they aren't going to be able to call the police. Cell phones don't work on that platform, I know from experience. Tell them to notify the police if they're concerned, but that they have no legal authority over you. Then let go of the stroller so she's holding your stroller with your children and scream for help at her attempted kidnapping of your children.

I've never had anything of the kind happen to me there, but I'll be on the lookout for it! You'd think she'd have enough genuine dangers to children to investigate given that those elevators are some of the most urine-soaked in the whole city and directly above is 3-4 streets full of adult stores with ludicrously explicit windows. Oh, and there was an actual attempted insane-stranger abduction by a man on the street walking by a little boy and his nanny last week. Probably makes screaming that she's kidnapping them more effective, since it's on people's minds. The nanny yelled and hit the man and he dropped the boy and bolted.

A mother yelling at her kids is the very very very very lowest possible ever rung of concern for an actual social worker in that neighborhood. It's NYC, we keep to ourselves as a rule. I can't speak to Canada, but I'll keep that in mind when considering where to move!

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#27 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:51 PM
 
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Okay, whether they were real social workers or not aside, I am absolutely stunned at people's reactions to this thread!

.....

But because it's "one of our own" then all of a sudden it's no big deal? What a horrible double standard!
Well, if you re-read my post, I did NOT say that the women should have ignored what happened. I said that their approach was bad. And it was. These women intervened in a way that was guaranteed to escalate the situation and make everyone feel crappy about it.

I don't condone what the OP did, but from the outset she's acknowledged her mistakes. There seems little point in beating her up about it. If those women had handled the situation with more tact and discretion, then the OP would be posting today about how some nice ladies helped her out on the subway yesterday when she was having a tough time. I've seen a few of those posts here as well, and they are always lovely to read. As for the other "judgement" threads, I try to err on the side of giving others the benefit of the doubt in those threads. I don't think that's a double standard. There's no need to give the OP the benefit of the doubt, since she's already acknowledged how she could have handled things better.
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#28 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:53 PM
 
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Seriously?
I would hope that the law would mean that you can't strike a child with a belt, switch, or paddle. Not that you can't strike your child with any object. If a jacket qualifies, so does a baseball you toss for practice, a magazine you throw across the room to your kid, and a french fry in a food fight. You might want to check your interpretation of the law. Meanwhile, I'll avoid Ontario.
Seriously? Obviously intention is the main thing. Accidentally hitting a child with a baseball is very different from hitting them with a jacket. And I doubt you seriously needed me to explain that.

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#29 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:55 PM
 
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Oh, and I wouldn't worry about the station for future events. Yesterday was the 200,000 person Village Halloween Parade. Lots of crazy out there yesterday!

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#30 of 87 Old 11-01-2010, 01:55 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Heavenly View Post
Okay, whether they were real social workers or not aside, I am absolutely stunned at people's reactions to this thread! How many times on here has someone come on and said something like, "I was on the subway today and there was this adorable little 2 year old in a stroller and he kept throwing his jacket out (which is TOTALLY age appropriate!) and his mother picked it up, threw it right at him and yelled at him!!!!! I think she poked him as well! I could not believe it! And what is even worse is that no one around her even tried to intervene. If she acts like this in public I can't even begin to imagine what she is doing to that poor child at home." Many, many, many times! Everyone would be responding, "Oh that poor child," or "that must have been terrible to witness mama!" But because it's "one of our own" then all of a sudden it's no big deal? What a horrible double standard! I am not even saying it is a big deal. Have I lost it on my kids? You betcha! Everyone has bad days and everyone does and says things that they regret. That is not my point. My point is that I am just appalled at the double standard. And I am a mandatory reporter (and a student studying to be a social worker) and if I saw someone looking very angry, yelling and throwing a jacket at a BABY, yes I would be obligated to report. It is illegal (at least in Ontario) to strike a child with an object and throwing a jacket at one qualifies.
Double standard? I have yet to read someone saying that they actively worked to detain another mother because they thought that mother was acting inappropriately towards their child. I have yet to read people congratulating an MDC member for grabbing another mother's stroller. You better believe that if any one grabbed my child (and yes, the stroller my child is in is an extension of my child at that point) in an attempt to stop me will be in a world of hurt. No one, no one, has the right to walk up to a stranger and grab their child.

It is illegal to prevent someone from leaving an area unless you are a police officer of some sort and have a valid reason to detain someone.

And no, throwing something at a child doesn't universally qualify as striking a child with an object. Otherwise it would be illegal to play catch with your kid.

malesling.GIFMutant Papa to DD (12)hippie.gif and DS (2)babyf.gif, married to DHribbonrainbow.gif
If it looks like I'm trying to pick a fight... I'm not, I'm rarely that obvious.hammer.gif
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