I want the babe to be safe.
May 25, 2011 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Neighbor behavior filter: I hear my neighbor's baby (definitely a baby) crying. I hear the sound of a man yelling things like "shut up" or "stop crying". And then I hear the sound of a smack. This makes me feel horrified. But is it any of my business to try to help?

By help, I mean call the police or call in an anonymous tip to child services. We have experience dealing with this neighbor negatively already, and it's become extremely clear that they do not have the same... moral turpitude as some of the other people in our neighborhood. So my opinion on the matter probably is biased.

I think that hitting a child (definitely A BABY) is abuse. I know that others do not feel this way. Should I call it in? Should I keep an ear out? Should I close the windows* and mind my own business?

*Our TV room gets the hottest in the warmer months, which is made better by having two windows and a fan. The neighbor's window is practically right next to ours.
posted by your mom's a sock puppet to Human Relations (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Call CPS. Please, please, please call CPS.
posted by batmonkey at 4:14 PM on May 25, 2011 [41 favorites]


Call the police.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 4:15 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of course you call the cops. Every time you hear what you've described, write it down, note the day and time, then pick up the phone and call the cops.
posted by minervous at 4:16 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would call CPS. And/or the police. Based on the sounds of smacking, yelling, and crying alone, regardless of perceived moral turpitude.
posted by phunniemee at 4:16 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Call it in. When we allow abusers to go unreported, we tacitly sanction abuse. You might be the only person in that baby's life that cares enough to protect it.
posted by Sternmeyer at 4:16 PM on May 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think you should call Child Protective Services.

1) It might protect the child from more serious abuse like being shaken and getting shaken baby syndrome which can lead to brain damage or death.

2) Child Protective Services might be able to connect the parents to resources that might help them, like anger management classes, parenting classes, post-natal depression support, etc.
posted by Year of meteors at 4:19 PM on May 25, 2011


It is absolutely your business. Call the cops. Or CPS. The cops will probably call CPS for you.
posted by freshwater at 4:19 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just came here from reading this article. Please call the police or CPS.
posted by Ostara at 4:21 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, yes, yes. Please call CPS.
posted by goggie at 4:22 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am usually the last person to say call CPS. So many people call CPS because they don't agree with another parent, or because they're involved in or choosing sides in a custody dispute, or other non-CPS reasons. Please call CPS.

Your ambivalence is understandable, and common enough to be in pop culture. But that baby needs you.
posted by headnsouth at 4:24 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's the worst that could happen if you call?

What's the worst that could happen if you don't?

Just call.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:25 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am in a position where I was required to take a course on spotting child abuse. I am legally required to report anything suspicious.

My takeaway from the course was this: it the job of CPS to determine whether or not the actual abuse is taking place. You don't have to prove anything, you are not responsible. You just need to let them know that this is a situation they should look into. If you are right, you may have saved that baby's life. If you're wrong, no harm, no foul.

Good for you for doing the right thing.
posted by chatongriffes at 4:26 PM on May 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


No, I don't think anybody is going to side with the idea that hitting a baby does not constitute abuse. +1 police.
posted by kmennie at 4:28 PM on May 25, 2011


Cops or CPS now, before it happens again.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:28 PM on May 25, 2011


I am definitely not ambivalent. I was abused in the same way as a child, but so many people still see this kind of behavior as acceptable. My husband even told me not to. I am calling. (Not so) hilariously enough, I can't seem to find my local CPS number on the internet anywhere. (Philadelphia)

Also, I am quite afraid, due to our previous negative interaction, that our neighbors will know it was us. But I have less at stake than that baby.

Thanks, everyone.
posted by your mom's a sock puppet at 4:29 PM on May 25, 2011




Contact info.
posted by phunniemee at 4:33 PM on May 25, 2011


Hitting a baby is dangerous. Hitting a baby loudly enough that someone in the next apartment is extremely dangerous. The fact that the baby stopped crying frightens me (as someone who has spent a decent amount of time around babies). Whether or not people see this behavior as acceptable, you are doing the right thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:44 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The baby didn't stop crying.

I have called the police and CPS. Unfortunately, my husband came home just a few minutes ago and saw them leaving their house, so if the police are going to come out, they won't be home. I don't know what to do about that.
posted by your mom's a sock puppet at 4:46 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is a relief. Babies don't stop crying when you hurt them unless they're seriously injured. I'm not sure what will happen with the police. Hopefully he just hit a table or a wall or something and not the baby.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:48 PM on May 25, 2011


If you can't find CPS's number, just go ahead and call the cops --- THEY will certainly have the correct names & numbers. Either CPS or police, but yes, please call!

(Something for your husband to consider: would he like someone treating HIS child like this?!? I'm guessing the answer is a solid NO.)
posted by easily confused at 4:50 PM on May 25, 2011


Here is what happened when I reported abuse once. I was very glad I had done it. You are doing the right thing.

I have called the police and CPS. Unfortunately, my husband came home just a few minutes ago and saw them leaving their house, so if the police are going to come out, they won't be home. I don't know what to do about that.

The police and CPS now know that there is a potentially dangerous situation for this baby, and they will have a protocol to follow if they come over and your neighbours aren't home. This kind of thing (people leaving before the police or CPS get there) probably happens all the time, and they'll follow up again soon.

Thank you for looking out for this baby's safety.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:54 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reporting it as it happens still gets the paperwork started. Let them know they've left. Each time something happens, call.

Regardless of how people like to raise their kids and what other people may think is right, that vulnerable, defenseless human has been left with someone who cannot or will not cope with the needs of a baby and that family needs help and/or intervention from someone who recognises the harm being done.

Thank you for stepping up!
posted by batmonkey at 4:56 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have unfortunately been in the position of having the police knock on my door and ask if I knew anything about a family that lived upstairs. They were not investigating a crying baby, they were investigating a dead child.

I knew nothing, there had been no unusual noises or crying, in fact the child had just recently been returned from being in foster care. I felt sick about what had happened, but I would have felt a million times worse if I HAD heard something and had talked myself out of reporting it. Give CPS and the police a chance to evaluate the situation and perhaps prevent either a horrible crime.
posted by saffry at 5:00 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


A social worker will try again if they don't make contact with parents the first time.

My family was once the victim of a false accusation to CPS (long story short: crazy person), so I can tell you the absolute best case scenario. You heard a movie. A social worker will come by once or twice, see everything is fine, and not come back. The family will be mildly put out.

That scenario is better than any scenario in which you don't call. (Because even if it was nothing you'd still be listening for a repeat.) It's wonderful that you called. If you hear it again, call again so they have a record.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:01 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


So many times when a baby is killed by an abuser, the abuser says they did it because the baby "wouldn't stop crying." You are doing the right thing.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:06 PM on May 25, 2011


Philly DHS is a mess. Next time, call the cops first.
posted by desuetude at 5:20 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I called the cops first and DHS second.

Thanks for the kind words. I don't regret it at all.
posted by your mom's a sock puppet at 5:24 PM on May 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


your mom's a sock puppet: I think that hitting a child (definitely A BABY) is abuse. I know that others do not feel this way.

Just so you know, you are not understanding the debate correctly. No matter which side you are on - corporal punishment is OK / corporal punishment is not OK - nobody thinks or argues that hitting an infant is OK.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:24 PM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


You did the right thing.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 5:32 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I write this with my baby sitting in his bouncy seat, not six inches from me. Thank you for calling. Thank you so much.
posted by sonika at 6:16 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was in this situation once - had an upstairs neighbor who would frequently hit and verbally abuse her 12 year old daughter. The husband and I had had a few negative interactions, and he was a very intimidating and scary guy. Nevertheless, I called and reported the incident and it was investigated, but like many cases, they didn't open it. CPS did inform me that the husband suspected that I had made the call, and that freaked me out quite a bit. My roommate and I ended up moving shortly after because it didn't feel safe. Even so, I don't regret having made the call. Often it just starts the paper trail, so in the future, if more responsible neighbors like you get involved and report the abuse, it only will help that there were previous reports on record.
posted by Sal and Richard at 6:29 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


DarlingBri: nobody thinks or argues that hitting an infant is OK.

Right... but I seriously doubt you should be interpreting the OP's remarks as denying this, even if they're a bit awkwardly phrased.

That is, all those two sentences seem to imply when read charitably is that some people aren't of the same mind regarding the corporal punishment of some children (e.g., non-infants).

[In other words: don't make someone out to be an idiot before you've exhausted the possibility that you might be misinterpreting his or her intent.]
posted by matlock expressway at 7:21 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, I was raised in a family where the adults would have said amongst themselves with a straight face that slapping an infant was ok if it was deserved. (Makes my stomach churn. OP, you absolutely, without the sliver of a shadow of a doubt, did the right thing. Thank you.)

This was 20+ years ago, not the dark ages.
posted by bilabial at 7:37 PM on May 25, 2011


You have fufilled your duty as a citizen. You have done the right thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:38 PM on May 25, 2011


For the record, please don't be afraid to call again. And do so, if the situation warrants it.

Also, you are likely not the only neighbor that can hear this, so don't live in fear of being found out. And it is not just neighbors who are privy, a family member or friend could report them, too. Anyone who comes into contact with the behavior could report it.

As a new mom and formerly abused child - please don't drop the ball on this. Thanks.
posted by jbenben at 8:29 PM on May 25, 2011


Please let us know if there are any developments, and call again every time you hear it.
posted by zardoz at 8:43 PM on May 25, 2011


Never ever hit a baby, for any reason. Even if someone believes spanking is ok for an older child, there is never any excuse to hit a baby. Thank you for doing the right thing and calling CPS. You may have saved a life.
posted by mermayd at 4:23 AM on May 26, 2011


Yeah, a baby isn't a child. A child is 75 lbs. and has a few years of muscular and skeletal development under the belt. A baby is in an extremely critical and physically vulnerable period in its life. Smacking a baby can kill it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:04 AM on May 26, 2011


Please call the police every time you hear something like this.
posted by amicamentis at 6:46 AM on May 26, 2011


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