Options for Unwanted Kids
September 30, 2006 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Adoption? Foster parents? What are the options for two neglected children of a crack addict mother?

I know of two children who are neglected by their mother, who is a selfish person and a crack addict, and ignored by their biological father who wants nothing to do with them and has said as much. Children's Aid (I live in Ontario) has been a joke thus far, and have done very little on behalf on the children. After their brief intervention, I see the same problems arising as before: the children knocking on my door asking for food, toilet paper and cigarette money for their mother (she brings them up to ask for her). I am not a relative, only a neighbour and a friend of the children. Now I hear the mother may be going away for a few weeks/months for treatment to get off the drug (sponsored by the mother's parents) but nobody wants the kids because they have ADD (the mother drank when she was pregnant) and have not been socialised properly. I should also mention the children have expressed to me on several occassions they do not want to live with their mother anymore.

These children need good parents who will nuture and teach them. What are the childrens options?
posted by dropkick to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What about something through their school? Can you communicate with a school counselor and tell them about the issues? They often have several ways to become advocates for the children, and on top of it ... that's their *job*.

(My S.O. picked up a foster sister that way, believe it or not. The 13 year old's dad told her she had to find a place to live, she came into my SO's mom's office (guidance counselor) crying, and my SO's mom said, "No, honey, you've got a place to go home to. The story still makes me tear up.)
posted by SpecialK at 12:22 PM on September 30, 2006

Call police/Children's Air each and every time, and gather whatever evidence you can of the children' circumstances -- because unfortunately the children probably deny everything when the authorities investigate. You wouldn't believe how strong the instinct it for abused and neglected kids to "protect" their family structure no matter how fucked up it is. Even if they don't want to live with mom anymore, they probably (rightly) view official intervention as a lot more final and disruptive than just "staying with" a neighbor for "a few weeks". They're probably pinning hopes on a fantasy that all will magically become good as soon as mom gets back from rehab.

Unfortunately, the authorities' hands are often tied by lack of evidence, and without follow-up reports of abuse/neglect they're kept too busy dealing with the more blatant cases. By keeping up the (legit!) reports and documention, you're keeping attention on the family and untying hands that are poised to help.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2006

If you feel that having a private, faith-based organization of good reputation involved is appropriate, you might contact Catholic Children's Aid Society, for guidance. They have been fairly tenacious in previous cases where a mother lacked parenting skills.
posted by paulsc at 12:58 PM on September 30, 2006

Oh, and to clarify: the children have no "options". They're minors. One way or another, the decisions will made for them. The best you can do is maybe help assure that a more responsible person is given that power over their lives. Because as incompetant a parent as you know her to be, even now their mother is the one who gets to call all the shots.

The only option those kids have is to tell the truth about their lives, or hide it. By that choice they do exercise some measure of control over their future. But unfortunately there's no guarantee that a better ending will come of speaking out -- consequences being one of those things that are too far out of their control.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:27 PM on September 30, 2006

I know someone in my province who was concerned for (minor points) of the welfare of a child. She called a community health nurse and asked for advice about a hypothetical situation. The nurse gave her some options for a hypothetical situation. The nurse also told her she could use a pay phone to call the Ministry (Children's Aid) and ask about the hypothetical situation. In handling things this way, the concerned individual was able to find out the best way to document things and the likely outcomes of any calls to the Ministry. The individual was actually able to resolve the situation without involving the Ministry, since they were not critical issues -- minor in the grand scheme of things and more amounting to a need for coaching the parent.

Anyway, could you call your health unit and ask to talk to a community health nurse in the Child & Youth Programs area? Use the hypothetical situation. Based on that info, do as above. Of course, you are dealing with a far more critical situation and you do have a duty to report any harm that befalls a child. But you may also want to check with relevant authorities in a safe way first.
posted by acoutu at 2:31 PM on September 30, 2006

I don't know what the system is in Canada. In the US, the "options" are bleak. The best option is usually for the kids to live with a relative or friend of the family, a sort of informal foster care arrangement. Usually the worst option is for the kids to go into the formal foster care system. In the latter case, at least in the US, it is usually several years before it is determined whether the mother (I would say "parent" but I've never seen the father around in these situations) will be reunited with the children, theoretically with services for parenting and drug abuse, or whether parental rights will be severed.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:53 PM on September 30, 2006

Do you have any churches with social workers on staff? Some large congregations either have a social worker or counselor on staff or contribute to a social services agency that offers such help. As a Baptist in Louisiana I know that we have children's homes and social services agencies sponsored by the churches of our denomination here. I also know of interdenominational ministries that offer this kind of help. Sometimes they are called a "boys' ranch" or "girls' ranch" because they are single gender and are in rural locations that give the kids a change of environment and recreation (such as horse rides). Often married couples live in homes on the ranches as foster parents.
posted by Didaskalos at 3:48 PM on September 30, 2006

Foster care is rarely a better choice than whatever fucked-up situation children started out in. If you have any sway in where they end up, please steer them away from that road.

(I'm not saying that every foster family is bad; I am saying that the vast majority are, and there are no guarantees and little protection after they're placed.)
posted by moira at 4:05 PM on September 30, 2006

Ah, my apologies. I speak for the U.S. I have no idea how the system works in Canada.
posted by moira at 4:06 PM on September 30, 2006

Probably you have seen this already, but:
Ontario's page on reporting child abuse, with links to local children's aid societies
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies

From these pages, it looks like you have a legal responsibility to report suspected abuse or neglect. So everyone else is right: keep records, and keep reporting. And try to speak to someone at Children's Aid to find out what's likely to happen to the kids.

(I have no idea what your relationship with these kids is like, but if they are hoping that you might take them in semi-permanently: don't lead them to think that you can, unless you are serious and ready for a legal fight and probably having to move.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:30 PM on September 30, 2006

At least in the States, it's possible for third parties to petition courts alleging that children are abused or neglected. You have to have facts to support your allegations, but there is at least legal standing to do so. You might talk to a lawyer specializing in family law, in Ontario, about this possibility.
posted by jayder at 4:36 PM on September 30, 2006

Response by poster: LobsterMitten: The children are under no pretensions I will take them in. I have 3 daughters of my own and a single father on a limited income.
posted by dropkick at 7:39 PM on September 30, 2006

(No disrespect intended at all - I hope none received. The only reason I brought it up was that I had a pair of friends in their early 20s who got themselves and two kids into a very awkward and painful situation, from a beginning like this, because of their naivete and hearts of gold. I'm glad that you're not in that place. Good luck getting the kids help!)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:17 PM on September 30, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you LobsterMitten and all who have replied. God help those two children.
posted by dropkick at 2:36 AM on October 1, 2006

Keep calling Children's Aid. They have told the mother the conditions under which she will be able to keep the kids. They need to know if she is not meeting those conditions.
posted by winston at 3:27 PM on October 1, 2006

Keep calling Children's Aid. Those kids have no chance of ever adapting to society with a childhood like this. At least in foster care they will have SOME chance, and may even get treatment for their ADD and a tolerant, nurturing parental figure. Don't bet on teachers. Who knows if and how often the kids go to school?

Full disclosure: I work in US foster care. There are worse things that could happen to a child, and many who enter early enough become happily adopted. No one will ever thank you for separating a child from their parents, but you have to look at what is in the kid's best interest. A crack-addicted mother pimping you for cigarette money and groceries is not it. God knows what else is going on in the apartment that you are not even privy to. Get the authorities involved, for the kids' sake.
posted by Marnie at 5:38 PM on October 1, 2006

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