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imaprincess!
04-24-2007, 06:44 PM
I'd like your advice on the following situation:

I just found out that my neighbor (a single mom about to get re-married) is allowing her daughters, just-turned 7 and 5 years old -- that's 2nd grade and kindergarten--, to walk home from the bus stop, let themselves in the house through the garage, and stay home alone until she arrives. I understand she is doing home health care now and her hours may vary a bit. Now, it may be only 20 minutes until she arrives home, but nonetheless, this is illegal and really disturbs me that she would do this.

She also will take walks around the neighborhood with her boyfriend and just leave the kids playing outside with the neighbors' kids (mine included) without letting the parents know that they are now responsible for her children!

The final kicker is that one evening when I was getting into my car and all the kids were out playing, the mom and boyfriend were getting ready to go for a walk and had drinks in their hands. The two little girls said, "Ooh! Can we have a drink?" and the mom and boyfriend let them have a good, long drink of each of their beers. I was astounded!

The mom will talk to neighbors if she is forced to, but otherwise stays to herself.

What would you do? I realize that reporting her to a child agency would be huge and I don't really want to get her in any kind of trouble ... I know she loves her kids, but I certainly don't know what she is thinking. Also, my neighbor who told me she suspects that the kids are home alone would know it was me that reported her if it did come to that. I certainly don't want to be the busybody neighbor (think Gladys Kravitz!), but I just can't understand why she would leave these young children home alone for any amount of time.

Ian
04-24-2007, 07:01 PM
My advice? Leave them be.

Are they making some poor parenting choices? Yes. But it doesn't sound like they're outright abusive or anything.

Interfering with a parent raising their child is a big deal and, IMO, should only be done when there is no other recourse available.

missbunny
04-24-2007, 07:02 PM
As a teacher of young children, it is my responsibilty to report any incidents of neglect or abuse. If I do not, I could be liable. It is very hard and I have made several complaints over the years. But I couldn't live with myself if my lack of a response led to something horrible happening.
As a parent, I would never look the other way when I see possible neglect or abuse. How many times have we heard of children who suffered and no one took the time to report it. I just want to scream at the world when I see someone interviewed say "I always thought there was a problem". Duh! Did you call to report it?
If I were in your shoes I would just try to talk to them family at first. Let them know that you are concerned. If there are afterschool problems in the area, give them the information. If that gets nowhere, try either the school or your area child protective services. You wouldn't be a noisy neighbor but a concerned person. The wolrd needs more people who look out for one another.
Good luck and let us know what happens.

Tink&Goofy
04-24-2007, 10:16 PM
Call me overprotective, but most definitely something needs to be done. What would happen if someone followed them home from the bus stop? What if there was something wrong at the house? Would they know what to do? I really doubt that a 5 and 7 year old would know how to deal with some potentially scary situations. Although you may not want to be the neighbor who "reports" the parents, I look at it as protecting those kids. How would you feel if you (or anyone else) did nothing, and something happened to them? If you don't want to play the bad guy, maybe go to the school they attend and explain the situation to the counselor or principal. Maybe they can intervene without dragging you into it. Good luck.

imaprincess!
04-24-2007, 11:05 PM
I think she figures that if anything happens, I'm home (next door) and my neighbor on the other side of me is too -- and her daughter rides the same school bus and is also in kindergarten (but in a different class). In fact, the kindergartener is asking my other neighbor, "Can you watch me until my mommy gets home?"

Boojum
04-25-2007, 01:00 AM
We had a woman move in next door with her 2 daughters (ages 5 and 8 at the time) and her boyfriend. I learned very quickly that she was irresponsible. She thought nothing of leaving them home alone, or disappearing while they were at my house--never telling me when she was leaving or where she was going. I, unwisely, did nothing but gripe to my DH about it.

Finally, one day, the younger child's school called me telling me the little girl was running a fever and needed to be checked out. Mother was nowhere to be found. I asked "Why are you calling me?"

They replied "Your name is on her health card as the emergency contact." I was dumbfounded, as the mother had never mentioned this to me, much less asked me if it was okay. I took the child home, and when her mother got home, I chewed her out. Her response? "I didn't think you'd care. They play at your house all the time!" She never tried anything like this on me again, although she did continue to palm the children off on other neighbors.

Unfortunately, some parents are clueless and careless, and think that others will look out for their kids. I advise you to gently confront this neighbor with your concerns. It does sound as though she's expecting you to watch your kids, and if something ever happens to them, you may get blamed for it--even if you haven't officially agreed to watch them.

Marker
04-25-2007, 10:30 AM
Priority #1 should be the children!

If you feel they are being endangered, then something must be said. If not to them, then to the authorities. The school is also an option, but while they maybe willing to help and able to advise , this is outside of the school.

I don't know the particular laws in your area, I don't know your neighborhood, I don't know the maturity level of these children, and I don't know the parent's situation. So it's really for me to say what you "should do".

I've known 7 year olds who are perfectly capable of letting themselves in the house and being there for a few minutes by themselves. Likewise I've know some who wouldn't be capable. Is it the ideal situation, NO WAY, but is it totally reckless, I don't know.

Instead of making waves, perhaps offer to help. Perhaps just offer to let the kids wait at your house for that 20 minutes before she gets home. Seems much more neighborly than sicking the "dogs" on them. She may not have the means to do something else (or she may) but either way, the priority here should be the children.

As for the drink thing, do you know for CERTAIN what's in the drink? I know times are different now, but I grew up in a household and in a time when taking a sip of my dads beer was never a big thing. Not saying it's right, but depending on the situation, it may not be so incredibly AWFUL either.

Without greater details, and without both sides of the story, there's really no way to effectively advise. If it comes down to a difference in parenting style, that's one things. But if it is actuall concern for neglect or endangerment, something must be said.

Priority #1 should be the children!

Tinkerfreak
04-25-2007, 02:05 PM
I also had a neighbor who used to let her little girls run all over the place unsupervised and even near a pond. She had 3 kids and the first time I met them they just showed up at my house and asked if they could play. I asked them where their mother was and they said home. This is almost a 1/2 mile down the road in the trailer park and they had walked alone through the woods to my house. I told them that they were not allowed to play unless I met their mom and she told me it was ok. Well the first thing she did when I met her was ask me if I worked and when I said no I am a SAHM she asked me what I did all day? I almost said none of your business but I was polite. I told her that I do the paperwork for our business. She then asks me if I would babysit for her. I had just met her and she did not even know me. I told her no and she got really mad at me and acted like I had nothing to do all day so I should babysit for her.
The problems with these kids got worse and it got to the point where she would just pull up in the driveway and dump the kids off and leave them with me without permission. I finally saw her coming one day and told her they were not allowed to come over without calling first and not to drop them off like that anymore. The kids were also getting off the bus and coming to my house because moms boyfriend was not home or was sleeping and they were locked out of the house. I was really worried about the safety of these children and the final straw was when one of the girls told me that her mom had left her with one of the neighbors and that the neighbors son had touched her in the privates. I told her she should tell her mom right away and she said that she had told her but she had done nothing about it. In fact the mother still let the girls ride all through the woods with this same guy on his 4-wheeler. I ended up calling the school because she had told the kids to go to my house when they got off the bus without my permission and told them that I did not want to be responsible for them after school and I also let them know what the girl had told me. I was worried sick about these kids for months and finally felt I had to tell someone. The school thanked me for talking to them and said they would talk to the kids and see what they could learn. The school ended up calling in social workers and I'm not sure what ever happened. They moved and the kids switched schools. They all had different fathers so I'm not sure how involved they were.
The only problem with offering to watch the kids after school is that she could start to take advantage of you. I'm sorry this was so long but I know how you feel and that your are worried about the kids. You are not sure when to step in without feeling like a butinsky.

Ian
04-25-2007, 02:14 PM
I've known 7 year olds who are perfectly capable of letting themselves in the house and being there for a few minutes by themselves. Likewise I've know some who wouldn't be capable. Is it the ideal situation, NO WAY, but is it totally reckless, I don't know.

Instead of making waves, perhaps offer to help. Perhaps just offer to let the kids wait at your house for that 20 minutes before she gets home. Seems much more neighborly than sicking the "dogs" on them. She may not have the means to do something else (or she may) but either way, the priority here should be the children.

As for the drink thing, do you know for CERTAIN what's in the drink? I know times are different now, but I grew up in a household and in a time when taking a sip of my dads beer was never a big thing. Not saying it's right, but depending on the situation, it may not be so incredibly AWFUL either.

Without greater details, and without both sides of the story, there's really no way to effectively advise. If it comes down to a difference in parenting style, that's one things. But if it is actuall concern for neglect or endangerment, something must be said.Wise advice, as usual Marker. I agree 100%.

MsMin
04-25-2007, 02:45 PM
I've seen all too often that ppl like that will take advantage of others by leaving their children as you describe and if you offer to help it can often open the door for abuse of that situation, before you know it her kids could be at your house more than their own.
Our law here does not specify an age in which the child can be left alone. Instead the law states that the parent is responsible so that even if you leave a 15yr old home alone who gets into trouble the state assumes that the parent made a poor judgment of that child's ability and hold them accountable.
Unfortunately there are many who think of a child as a possession that they can do whatever they deem suitable for their needs. And in many cases the law doesn't allow for action until there is serious injury or worse. I've had trouble prosecuting parents with things we couldn't mention here and things some people would never dream would happen.Unfortunately we are not in Fantasyland and horrible things do happen and some parents are horribly abusive and neglectful. There are many children who need a loving adult to speak out for them.
In this case, yes, I would agree the parent is making some bad choices. IMO I don't see anything that many child protection agents would even act upon though I know states vary in how they respond.
I would be cautious of volunteering to help this woman. I have seen many people left with the responsibility from people like this when child protection comes in the first thing they say is my neighbor, friend etc. was watching the child.
What is really scary that you are seeing the parents on their best behavior.
If this were me I would decide just how involved I would want to get and carefully weigh out how this could backfire. Some parents will take it out on the kids for letting others know they were alone or they could turn on you. Honestly, I can say yes this behavior would upset me too but I can't promise that sticking your neck out won't make things worse for you or the children. :(

murphy1
04-25-2007, 04:10 PM
My neighbor does this kind of stuff too and it's crazy. I have a 7 yo and I will not leave her alone longer than to go to the mailbox. As far as the bus stop thing, someone can come and snatch your kid if they know the kid's pattern from even a close bus stop. It's not my kids I don't trust, it's other people.

Marker
04-25-2007, 05:45 PM
As far as the bus stop thing, someone can come and snatch your kid if they know the kid's pattern from even a close bus stop. It's not my kids I don't trust, it's other people.

You are absolutely correct, it is often more likely others you need to worry about than your own kids. At least there is, sadly, always the potential.

However, and I am probably totally wrong with this attitude, and would never suppose upon anyone else that my way is right and their way is wrong but, I believe (believed) in teaching my kids awarensess and due caution, but not fear. I didn't want my children to be afraid to go outside. I didn't want my kids to be afraid of everyone. I wanted my kids to be friendly and courteous. But then we also have "aware" parents, we know our neighbors, we know who is home and who is not, likely as not when the bus does come, while we may not go out and escort the kids home, there are undoubtedly several sets of eyes on them. We don't even lock our house, while we're there, or while we're away. It took me forever to get my wife to at least take the keys out of the car (she grew up on a farm and they always just left the keys in so they'd know where they were).

I understand too that what is appropriate is going to be highly dependant on where you live. I was born and raise with midwest friendly. Waving at people in approaching cars it simply being friendly. Looking people in the eye and saying hello is just the way it's supposed to be. If I'm sitting on a bench at a park, or in a mall, I'm going to strike up a conversation with the person next to me, older, younger, whatever. It's just friendly, and that's what my children grew up with as well. Yes, you have to teach them the proper cautions, and all for the "stranger danger" stuff, but I would not teach them hide and be afraid. Now, if I was in another area of the country, that would have probably been different, but then that's why I choose to live here in the midwest.

My kids are now 25, 23, and 19. They are independant, aware, respectful, and friendly. And they are not afraid of the world. I think they turned out ok.

Neighbors help neighbors, it's just what's done.

crazypoohbear
04-25-2007, 06:14 PM
I would suggest you anonymously call the local police station. Tell them that you BELEIVE the new girls in the neighborhood are getting off the bus and walking home into an empty house by themselves. Ask them to send a cruiser out to observe when the bus arrives. Then the police officer can observe and question the children and mother. That way the neighbor will think the police just "happen to be in the neighborhood and noticed something amiss"
1) you can't be blamed by the neighbor

2) If your suspicions are true the kids will ultimately be protected

3) IF what you believe is NOT true then you will have peace of mind and again the
neighbor is none the wiser.

4) The police would rather be told to check something out BEFORE something goes wrong than to canvas the neighborhood AFTER a tragedy and be told that "Yeah we knew or suspected but didn't want to get involved"

5) It will be much better to have a living neighbor upset than to have to visit the girls in the hospital or Morgue!

So go call the police ( most police depts have some type of community/school officer)
Keep us posted.

imaprincess!
04-26-2007, 09:50 AM
I think the situation is simply a matter of convenience. It is easier to let them come home on the bus vs. sending them to after-school care. The mom is a nurse -- it's not like she's making $7.00 an hour as a store clerk, so I think she can afford daycare. The boyfriend has a beautiful, brand-new red convertible BMW in the garage. Plus, as I previously mentioned, I think they are only alone for a little bit of time so she figures it's not a big deal.

I thought of offering to watch them, but I have three children of my own to take care of. I should not have to take on watching someone else's children because she is irresponsible. Plus, I might mention that these girls drive all the neighbors insane because they are always knocking on doors, asking things like, "Can I pet your dog?" You tell them no and literally, they're back 3 minutes later asking again if they can pet your dog and they'll be back in another 5 minutes asking again. I could ramble on! A lady down the street opened a home daycare. After she had those two for about 6 months, she shut the business down because they drove her nuts! :bang: I've known the oldest girl since she was a few months old and the youngest one since she was born.

At one point, when the ex-husband was still living there, we were a bit social with them. We used to have a key to their house and let their dog out if they were running late, until it became that they were calling every night asking us to do it.

The bottom line here is that in the state of Maryland, it is illegal for a child under the age of 8 years to be left home alone. Additionally, you must be 13 years old to be home alone and watch other children. My true concern is that if a situation arose, the girls wouldn't know how to handle it: fire, injury, etc. They may be pains in the neck, but I would not want to see any harm come to them.

Melanie
04-26-2007, 10:01 AM
The bottom line here is that in the state of Maryland, it is illegal for a child under the age of 8 years to be left home alone.

I think you answered your own question right there. Sorry, but I think it's wrong. Something needs to be said to someone, whether it be the mother or the authorities.

murphy1
04-26-2007, 12:23 PM
I agree with Mel, that's the whole point.

I am pretty much the neighbor that other's call to watch their kids, be an emergency contact, pet sit, get mail and water plants if they are gone. I think if you got into watching her kids, she is going to expect a lot more. When I started working at home, a lot of people think I am just available for anything and everything. Like you said, there is just too much that could happen they couldn't handle. In fact, a friend of mine told me her cousin's son got in trouble with the internet when he was left alone.

Sean Riley Taylor's Mom
04-27-2007, 12:02 PM
I am surprised the school and the bus driver will allow a 5 year old to get off of the bus without a parent present.
Our school district will not allow a child under 7 or in Kindergarten/1st to be dropped off at home without a parent or a person that the parent specifies to the driver (This is the neighbor and she is allowed to get my child off the bus in the event I am not home) physically being at the stop. They will return the child to the school to wait for a parent. Even if the child has an older sibling on the bus with them. The older child is allowed to get off, the younger child stays.

My boys are 9 and 7 and have never been allowed to get off of the bus alone or stay home alone. They will not be permitted to for a long time. There are just too many things that could go wrong, IMO.

I am very friendly with my neighbors. All of our children are friends. There have been many occasions that one of the parents have called and asked me to keep their child until they could get here. I am glad they have me to fall back on instead of possible leaving the child alone.

You are in a tough situation. As a Mom, I would be upset at seeing the kids unsupervised and would try and talk to the Mother. If you are comfortable with it, ask to keep the kids until she can get there. (I know that is difficult on a daily basis, I have three kids too). Maybe talk to the school and see what their policy is on kids that young getting off the bus alone. They do not have to say it was you who said anything.

Just a few thoughts. I am sure it is nerve wracking. I hope something can be done so you do not have to worry about them.

It is stressful enough worrying about your own kids.

MNNHFLTX
04-27-2007, 01:10 PM
I suppose it might be tempting to avoid any conflict and look the other way, but in situations like this I imagine how I would feel if something did happen to those little girls. I don't think I could live with myself if I knew of a potentially dangerous situation and did nothing about it.

You can call Child Protective Services and request to remain anonymous. They will send a case worker out to investigate the home situation and whether the children are being left home alone. Based on what you said, I highly doubt they would remove the children from the home, but would caution the mother on the law and any consequences if they have further reports of the girls being left home alone. Hopefully that would be enough to get her to make arrangements to ensure that the children are supervised at all times. Of course, there's the chance the mother will be hostile at her neighbors for reporting her, but it doesn't sound like she is all that friendly anyway, and would not be a great loss.

I don't blame you for not wanting to become involved in babysitting this woman's children under these circumstances. Why should you be tied down each afternoon in the chance that the daughter's mother will not be there when they get home from school? If the mother wants to make concrete arrangements with her neighbors to watch her kids, that's fine, but at least she could offer some compensation or reciprocation of some kind.

imaprincess!
04-27-2007, 04:41 PM
The little girl who lives on the other side of me is also in kindergarten at the same school and rides the same bus. Her mom walks to the bus stop to get her and I would guess the other mom told her girls to walk with her. This is the neighbor who brought this situation to my attention. I'm a little disturbed that this doesn't seem to concern her.

I'm not sure what the bus policy is since my kids go to a parochial school and I have to take them to/from school myself.

I think the mom might realize that we know the kids are alone. We'll see what happens today. I'll keep an eye on the kids (just maybe invite them to play outside with my kids) for a few days until the mom gets home and if the situation continues, I'll find some way to ensure that they get into a supervised environment. :plot:

Disney Doll
05-01-2007, 06:22 PM
I say let it go. It doesn't sound like a real serious situation and involving DHS is likely to go nowhere. I spent a year as a foster parent and you would be amazed at the things parents can get away with. Minimum standards of care are all DHS cares about (basically health, food,and shelter). Sadly, there is no way to force someone to be a "good" parent.

jacknsally02
05-01-2007, 07:22 PM
I've also worked in foster care, with real abuse situations. I can't get over how much people are observing other people's lives. I think if you really are worried than maybe you should talk to the mom and offer to keep the kids by you when she is running late, then you can be part of a solutiuon rather than compounding a problem

imaprincess!
05-02-2007, 12:59 AM
I appreciate anyone who took the time to respond to my request for advice. To be honest, I'm quite surprised by those that said to look the other way, and especially to the comment that said you are surprised how much people observe other people's lives ... I took that as a personal ouch! :medic: This is not a case where I am "observing" a husband flirting with a neighbor and wondering what to do about it. This has to do with a situation that could jeopardize the the safety of two very young children.

This post mentioned that perhaps I should watch her children instead of adding to the problem. This solution seems like a case where the victim is turned into the criminal!

My husband and I make big financial sacrifices so that I can stay home with our children and my plate is very full tending to the three of them. As soon as my youngest is in school full-time, I will return to work, but would never be so irresponsible as to leave children so young to come home alone and hope all goes well.

Why should I have to watch a neighbor's children simply because she chooses to be irresponsible? If there were an emergency or fire in that house when those children are alone, where do you think those children would run for help? You've got it -- next door to me. If they were hit by a car crossing the street, who do you think would get dragged into it when they are looking for someone who knows them? That's right, me.

It is her job as a parent to be sure her children are safe and cared for, not my job. I am doing that for my own. This is not some hardship case. I've known them for 7 years; it is simply a case of what is easiest for her.

As I said, the bottom line is that in my state, what she is doing is illegal; but it is par for the course for her as she routinely allows her two young girls to remain unsupervised - they can be gone for 8 hours on a Saturday or Sunday and she never once checks on them. She'll begin a search for them at about 8pm when she has gotten dinner on the table. I can bet you that when she gets comfortable leaving them home alone for 20 minutes, it will turn into an hour, two hours, etc.

If it were a situation where I personally felt they were too young to be home alone, but the law said it is okay, that would be one thing. However, again, it is illegal in our state to do what she is doing.

jacknsally02
05-02-2007, 06:56 PM
sorry, I thought you were asking for advice, I didn't realize that you saw yourself as a "victim" in this situation.

murphy1
05-03-2007, 02:22 PM
We have an afterschool program that runs right after school until 6:30 pm. This mom needs to check into something like that, b/c I know everytown has one, even if it is a daycare for an hour. I am using this when I go to nursing school two days a week, I will miss the girls a couple days by the same amount of time and my oldest will be ten, no way are they staying home alone. Don't feel bad about not watching them, I have people try to dump on me, they get mad if I say no, but I would get burnt out otherwise.

:mickey:

kakn7294
05-03-2007, 06:50 PM
It's a tough situation - I understand that you don't want to be held responsible for these girls and you shouldn't have to. If you don't want to babysit, you shouldn't have to. I also understand that you don't want to be "the bad guy" and be the one to turn her in but the bottom line is that what she is doing is illegal and potentially dangerous. If you don't want to confront her face-to-face, perhaps an unsigned letter left on her door will let her know that someone knows what is going on and that it is illegal and must be stopped. If you think the authorities should be involved, call the school or the police and have them check out the situation - she doesn't have to know how they found out. Unfortunately, you are being made the victim just by knowing what you know and being put in this situation in the first place.

DizneyRox
05-04-2007, 08:44 AM
Sounds like you've already decided on what you want to do, but are just looking for affirmation on your decision. Call the cops and wash your hands of the situation.

Understand though that by doing so, you are further involving yourself in the situation. I see your dilema. There are a whole bunch of ways this could work out.

Best case: Playing the odds, there is probably a good chance nothing will ever happen in the time until it's "legal" for the kids to be home alone.

Worst case: You call the cops and the kids are removed from the home and placed in foster care. They will grow up without their real parents and their friends constantly reminding them that their parents don't love them (kids are mean remember) and whatever emotional consequences that will bring.

If it were me, I'd let them do what they want to do, it's their life, let them live it. I'd be pretty peeved at my neighbors for sticking their noses in my business, regardless of the situation. I also WOULD NOT be the one leaving kids unattended, letting dogs run loose, having parties until the morning hours, etc. The saying good fences make for good neighbors is mostly true. I'm OK with people until they cross me, and at that point they are dead in my eyes. This would be crossing that line for me.

Marker
05-04-2007, 03:57 PM
When our kids were younger, we were always proud to be one of the homes in the neighborhood that kids felt they could come to in times of need. We were happy that they felt safe at our house.

I guess I'm from a different planet or something, but my first instinct is to help neighbors, not to ignore them, call the authorities, or consider their issues none of my business and not my problem unless it effects me directly.

Neighbors help neighbors on my planet, not because we "have" to, but because we "want" to. It's what neighbors do, even if it is an inconvenience.

I guess I'm a bit surprised, although I suppose I shouldn't be, by what appears to be the prevailing sentiment.

"Magic" is, as "magic" does.

imaprincess!
05-07-2007, 09:07 PM
sorry, I thought you were asking for advice, I didn't realize that you saw yourself as a "victim" in this situation.

The "victim" statement is simply an analogy.

And I am seeking advice, as it's good to get different points of view in any situation.