Drug abuse, recovery, sex addiction and children.
April 11, 2012 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Someone very close to me is a recovering meth user with 3 small children, her latest baby daddy is a recovering alcoholic who is also convicted rapist albeit on parole now. I am having some concerns about her and the kids but am at a loss as to what I should or even can do....

Let's call this person Kay, she was sober all of a month maybe when she met the guy Bob and immediately got pregnant. He committed a violent rape 20 years ago while in a black out and got sober in jail and has as far as I can tell been sober since. He always struck me as sort of dumb and definitely misogynistic but hey, he served his time and is in recovery so he deserves a chance, no? So Kay gives birth to a baby boy, she also has 2 girls from previous relationships, they are approximately 8 and 11. Their various father's are tangentially involved in their lives and are both users/alcoholics. Kay and Bob live together though I should add that Bob is actually married to another woman. God this is so soap opera and if it weren't really happening I'd not believe it...anyhow, Bob apparently has been cheating on Kay since their relationship started with multiple women. When one of these women contacted everybody in Kay's family to tell the sordid story Kay confronted Bob who admitted to sleeping with this women but claimed he was just using her for money and gifts. For a reason that I am unable to discern this satisfied Kay and she continues to live with Bob and even bought him a car (have I mentioned that he has no real job? no? well she supports the whole family as a waitress) Everyone has been shocked and confused and not a single one of us want anything to do with Bob at this point. He got one of the other women pregnant even but she miscarried. One of Bob's other girlfriends has been harassing Kay's oldest daughter on fb even. Kay has shut out all friends and family, stating we don't understand (this is true!). Her behavior has been very erratic as of late though I can't tell if it's from the situation or if she is using again. So that's most of the story and my question is what should I or can I do to ensure the kids are safe?? I feel like Kay would shut me out her of and the kid's life entirely with little provocation and I wouldn't be able to help her or them...Kay's sponsor has confided that Kay is no longer talking to her or going to meetings. Can I talk to Bob's parole officer about my fears? Is that even appropriate? Is Bob even a danger to the kids? I am so lost here...(I should add that the baby is now 2 so Kay and Bob have been together for 2 years which is how long Kay has been sober, if she still is sober)
posted by yodelingisfun to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
God this is so soap opera and if it weren't really happening I'd not believe it

Clearly, you don't spend a lot of time dealing with social services or the legal system. I've known case workers who have four generations of a single family as clients at the same time. And great-grandma is only 60. If you're worried that she and/or her boyfriend are using drugs or are otherwise endangering the kids, put a call into Child Protective Services. They'll be right out to sort things out.

But know that once you do this, there really is no going back. That family will be on CPS's radar pretty much forever, and once kids go into The System, they rarely come out before they turn eighteen. Further, if it ever comes out that you were the one who made the call, "Kay" and "Bob" are unlikely to be thrilled with you, so you should be prepared for some repercussions there. But if they're not listening to friends/family, and the kids really are in trouble, CPS is likely the only real option left. And drugs in a home is definitely something most states consider to be "child abuse" almost if not actually by definition.
posted by valkyryn at 1:45 PM on April 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

Before Kay got sober CPS was called out, multiple times. Nothing ever happened except that she became violently angry at her mother. Once she went into rehab we went to her house and cleaned it out, there were used needles and other drug paraphernalia everywhere. It is especially heartbreaking because when she is sober she is a good mother and good person. I sort of doubt that Bob would be using as regular drug tests are part of his parole guidelines. I could be wrong though...
posted by yodelingisfun at 1:51 PM on April 11, 2012

So, in short-- your friend is dating someone who has cheated on her, but she forgives him for that?

What's the problem?
posted by Static Vagabond at 2:09 PM on April 11, 2012

But know that once you do this, there really is no going back.

There are times, unfortunately, when CPS intervention takes things from bad to worse. Get in touch with a local social worker (off the record) and ask some general questions about procedure and so on. Don't describe the actual situation, don't mention names, etc. What you don't want to do is initiate a process that takes kids out of a shitty home and sticks them into a incredibly shitty foster system. And, from what I know, there is no state foster system that isn't grossly underfunded.

Even considering that social workers, generally, don't want to take kids from homes (if there's anyone as keenly aware as to how bad the local system is, it's them) the presence of drugs may mean that it'll happen automatically, whether the social worker thinks it's reasonable or not. That knocks out any "lesser of two evils" approach that would benefit the kids.
posted by griphus at 2:09 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can help by dropping by with groceries for the kids if you feel like they aren't being fed adequately. You can pick up good books and educational toys. I'm not sure there is anything you can do beyond that.

Also, Kay's sponsor was way out of line to tell you she wasn't attending meetings. Shame on her.
posted by kate blank at 2:10 PM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

So griphus, if there are family members who would take the kids, do they still go to fosters first? No one wants to take her kids away, I'm just curious as to what happens if it gets to that point?
posted by yodelingisfun at 2:15 PM on April 11, 2012

It's a hard call to make, whether you should be doing something here or not. I think the question is one of whether the kids are actually in danger.

Don't focus on the malingering or philandering. Those behaviors do not themselves endanger children, even though they may seem like symptoms of anti-social behavior.

Here are some things I'd ask myself with regards to any threats posed by Bob, were I in your shoes:

• Have you ever seen Bob behave violently?
• Has Bob ever shouted at, shoved, or talked down to Kay or her kids in front of you?
• Have Kay or the kids had unexplained injuries?
• Have Kay or the kids mentioned any violent behavior on Bob's part?
• Have any of the children become shy or closed off in the last two years? Have you noticed any changes in the kids' personalities, grades, interests, or socialization with other children?

Is it possible for you to be there as a support for the kids? Do you only see them when you're around Kay, or do you ever get one-on-one time with them? If you do get one-on-one time, can you gently ask the girls if they feel safe at home?

If it's a domestic violence situation, Kay may not reach out. Her behavior may have changed, not because she's doing drugs again, but because she is afraid and thus withdrawing. But if that's the case, she probably won't tell you, and you should not assume anything without evidence.

Here is pretty thorough checklist of signs of abuse.

If a bunch of those signs of abuse show up, I as a survivor would ask you to do whatever is in your power to ensure those kids' safety. I wish I'd had a watchful grownup around when I was a kid, who would have called in the cavalry at some point.

(Note: CPS might not be the best way to go if, as you've said, they've already been involved with this family and that involvement hasn't helped. Maybe you should try another route, like calling grandmothers or dads and seeing what they can do to help out? And griphus is right on about placing an anonymous-ish call to a social worker, too. You could even call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233, and they might have information for you.)
posted by brina at 2:16 PM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am so lost here...

I'm sorry for how you're feeling. Unfortunately, what you have described does not, in my experience, sound like a unique or unusual circumstance. I suspect Valkyryn is right that this is a very new dynamic for you, but unfortunately I don't think it will be new to anyone who is in any kind of official capacity to do anything about it.

You asked about possibly contacting certain people to report your concerns, and of course, you can try reaching out to anyone you want. Parole/probation officers, AA or NA sponsors, CPS caseworkers, etc., these people may or may not take your call, and they may or may not take any action regarding your concerns. Based on what you wrote, however, my Internet-psychic conclusion is that (1) the circumstance would not strike them as unusual or egregious, and (2) they are probably already aware of it, possibly including far worse elements that you don't know about.

So...what can you do? Honestly, I think the best thing you can contribute to the situation from the position of an outsider is to consider the adage, "It takes a village to raise a child." You aren't the parent, you aren't family, and you have apparently not chosen to spend your life acquiring the education and professional responsibility to make a direct impact—for instance, by becoming an attorney or a social worker. That makes you a "villager."

In that capacity, you can set a good example. For instance, if you're a friend of the mother then you can be a friend who dresses nicely and doesn't curse, who pays her bills on time, who is honest and positive. The kids will see that. If you have time and the mother is willing, then you can babysit or take the kids out for ice cream. If the mother needs a ride someplace or asks you for a favor, you can help out.

That is what you can do. It is not trivial, and those things can absolutely make a difference in a parent's or child's life. Based on my reading of the situation that you described, that is my advice to you.
posted by cribcage at 2:17 PM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have absolutely no idea how your state's CPS is structured. You should talk to a social worker.
posted by griphus at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2012

I am family, I'm sorry I should have made that clear. I have been dealing with her drug abuse and the consequences for years. I do currently have access to the kids as does the grandmother but she refuses to let anyone in the family see them when she's mad. I do not want to take her kids away. I do not care if her bf wants to screw every lady in town, that's between them. I only mention this because he is an admitted rapist and there are young females in the house. It may be completely irrelevant, I don't know how that all works. I have been very nice to this man until the various other girlfriends started showing up. Now I don't see her ever and we used to talk daily. I'm just worried. Perhaps for nothing, maybe i'm hyper vigilant due to past experiences, I just don't know.
posted by yodelingisfun at 2:25 PM on April 11, 2012

Is it at all possible for you to talk with a social worker or other counselor to strategize about how you can be the most effective help and resource to this woman and particularly to her children? Because that person would be able to answer your specific questions about communicating with child protective services, parole officers, as well as helping you come up with plans for offering help and support without disrupting the situation or being shut out from the mother's support circle.

I'm sorry that family members you care about are in this tough situation. Remember that your love and encouragement can help a lot.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:10 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm really sorry you're caught up in this. It's very frightening to be so powerless, especially when it involves people you know well and actually like.

As a family member you may be able to get custody - it gets VERY complicated. In the short term kids in my area almost always end up in foster care for a while before moving in with family, even in cases where it is beyond crystal clear that the kids are never going to be back with the custodial parents, and there is exactly one set of relatives who could conceivably take care of the kids, and they're very well suited to do it. In the case I linked to, I believe the kids were transferred to the grandparents in a few days. Again, crystal clear.

Personally, in your situation, I would be calling the Clark County Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline, and his parole officer. But I am very, very strongly biased towards retreating toward law and order, due to family background, etc. And I have less than zero sympathy for someone on parole who (based on your description) is at the very least sponging off of a vulnerable adult who probably isn't capable of making rational choices, almost certainly at the expense of her children's welfare.

It is definitely true that some foster parents are terrible for the kids and end up being worse for them than staying in their current environment. But you're probably not in a good situation to figure that out for yourself, and meanwhile there are more than a few major warning signs here. Please do recognize that living in an extremely unstable home, surrounded by drug abuse, having untrustworthy adults moving in and out of the family environment, having one or more parents engaged in high-risk behavior, etc., is terrible for the kids even if they never get hit and manage to get enough calories to survive. I'm all for sneaking them books and taking them to the zoo, but this situation is probably beyond the Big Brothers/Big Sisters strategy effectiveness limits at this point. She's cut off all contact with you, right?

(Oh, and the father(s) of the older two children, and possibly their parents, as well as her parents, have higher priority than anyone else in line to get custody of the children, at least in my jurisdiction. The children would, out here, stay in foster care until investigations of the suitability of all these people could be accomplished - unless the custodial parent picked a specific guardian, which may or may not be an option in your area. This stuff gets complicated, and you so need to talk to a social worker or attorney. You might want to start with 211, actually.)
posted by SMPA at 5:07 PM on April 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

You and other family members might also benefit from attending AlAnon meetings where you'll find others who have dealt with similar situations. Are you close enough that you can spend regular time with the kids? Are other family members nearby? They need as many sane sober caring people in their lives as possible and they need to know that there are people they can call if things get rough. Don't pump them for information, don't act like you're rescuing them from a bad scene for an afternoon, just do fun kid things, take them to the park or whatever if you can. Kids in difficult situations are more resilient when they have people they can count on available.
posted by mareli at 7:05 PM on April 11, 2012

I do not care if her bf wants to screw every lady in town, that's between them. I only mention this because he is an admitted rapist and there are young females in the house. It may be completely irrelevant, I don't know how that all works.

Yes, this strikes me as a particularly dangerous situation. I am astonished that it's being treated as cavalierly as several of the commenters here have done. As horrible as it is even to think about, 11-year-old girls do get raped by their mothers' boyfriends -- it's a situation anyone who works in social services has seen, and not infrequently. He's a convicted rapist. He chose a mother of two girls on the brink of adolescence. You're not overreacting.

Are the children alone with him while Kay is working -- when they get home from school?

If you talk to a social worker, I hope they will make it clear that, as SMPA says, "this situation is probably beyond the Big Brothers/Big Sisters strategy effectiveness limits at this point." Yes, CPS is imperfect. But there is an addition to this situation that wasn't present before: a convicted rapist in the house with two young girls. CPS may be more alarmed than in the past, when there were reports of neglect.
posted by palliser at 7:26 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know someone in this situation and a couple of us just fake like we like the sleazy guy so we can keep an eye on everything. It is a little soul-killing but it's better than being shut out completely.

I'm so sorry.

And yeah, in most areas the kids are supposed to go to "kin" first but that puts you in an awkward situation where you're keeping your sister from her own kids, depending on what happens.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:14 PM on April 11, 2012

Not going to write much here, since I'm on my phone, but this is what I do for a living. When in doubt, call child welfare. Statements like "once a family is known to the system, they can't get out" are neither true nor helpful. We get calls on several times more families than we contact face to face; we open cases and remove children on a small percentage of the families we contact. In my county, about 70% of kids who are in foster care are with relatives or friends. It's true some kids never go home. Some kids SHOULD never go home.

On the other hand, nothing in the law promises children a happy childhood. CPS isis about safety, not happy. Your local CPS may know things about the background of this new guy that you don't, which may make the safety threats apparent.

Just from what you've written here, yeah, sounds like she is using again. I could be wrong, of course, but red flags are everywhere.
posted by purenitrous at 9:28 PM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

thanks to the last few posters, I left this thread thinking what the hell is wrong with metafilter people that a newly sober woman with 2 young girls getting pregnant by and living with a convicted rapist and becoming increasingly isolated while his behavior becomes increasingly disturbing is "normal" and I am over-reacting?? I walk a fine line between keeping the kids available to me and keeping them safe and it would be devastating to go wrong either way. I haven't been to AA or NA in a while but it seems to me that the whole newly sober person becoming involved with the older guy thing right away wasn't too good either. I know I cannot fix her, believe me the whole family has been through hell with her and it just gets exponentially scarier with every kid she has. So no this not a case where some guy cheated on his gf and she forgave him. This man is a rapist, he does not work, he lives with young girls whom he "babysits" all the time, the kids have told me he spanks them hard at which point I stepped in and told him if he ever touched them again it would be very ugly which ultimately only pushed them all away even more. I have no idea how to proceed in a manner that is good for the kids, how do I keep them from being punished for telling me things and they love their mom and are now old enough to start protecting her...it's just so fucked up and meth is awful and for everyone who told me to mind my own business, well I hope you are never in this sort of situation.
posted by yodelingisfun at 9:31 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know what you need to do. She leaves her children with a convicted rapist. Alone. Often. She may be back on meth. He spanks the girls hard. She leaves her children with a sex offender who hits them. Let's let that sink in for a second. She may be a good person, but she clearly does not have the judgment to be responsible for the welfare of these children. That may or may not be due to drugs. You don't know and really the why doesn't matter.

This what you know. Imagine what you don't know. And you likely don't know even close to the worst. Nowhere near. Kids don't always tell people what's happening to them. You cannot rely on them to tell you if they are being abused. They cannot live in the same house as a sex offender. They simply can't. You clearly have a good faith basis to call child services. Do so and tell them you or someone else in the family is willing to take the kids.
posted by whoaali at 9:42 PM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

If I read this story correctly, "Bob" has been sober for 20 years. The rape occurred when drinking and presumably to an adult victim. I don't think "convicted rapist" is the biggest issue here. I wouldn't think his probation officer would be of much help if he isn't violating probation.

My biggest concern would be physical abuse of the children directly or possibly of Kay. Parents really should not be spanking children hard - suggest a quick temper and/or lack of any other parenting skills.

Second, I would also be concerned about child neglect - if mom is using (or at least is showing very poor judgment), bio dads are distant and stepdad is busy with his affairs, it would be very easy for the needs (food, medical, education) of the kids to be neglected.

CPS are the right people to get involved - it is their mission to protect children. Unfortunately it doesn't always work as well in real life as it is supposed to in theory. However, you can call and anonymously ask if these facts were merit a report and what the likely response would be.

I'm wondering if there is a way to make sure the kids get their annual physical (and maybe share with the pediatrician your concerns) Doctors are mandated reporters - if they have a reasonable suspicion they are required to report to cps. (Never tried this myself)

Also wondering if grandma might be able to reach out to the school (probably need Kim's consent). It would open a channel of communication.
posted by metahawk at 10:27 PM on April 11, 2012

The spanking thing, that's it, that's abuse. He is not their parent. These are pre-pubescent or pubescent girls being spanked which is WRONG on so many levels and it's being done by an unrelated male. Someone has to call CPS, now. What's going to happen when school is out for the summer?

I'm really surprised that their teachers haven't called CPS, they're mandated reporters too.

Is there any family member in a position to take all three kids right now? Anyone with enough time and extra bedrooms? If so maybe you could all organize some kind of family intervention and tell K that the kids are going to live with this relative or CPS will be called. I helped do something like that once for a junkie friend' kid. He grew up with an aunt and is doing great.
posted by mareli at 6:38 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you offer to babysit one night at their house so mom and the guy can go out to celebrate mothers day, and then, as unobtrusively as you can when the kids are watching a movie/in bed, look for drug paraphrenalia? I know that is sneaky, but it might make you feel more confident about calling CPS. But barring that I think calling CPS and letting them know your suspicions would be good. You are a good person for getting involved in this.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:49 AM on April 12, 2012

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