Protective sans Custody
October 10, 2006 1:01 PM   Subscribe

My 2-year-old's Mother pulled her daughter's arm out of its socket. People say this is not uncommon. Still...

Me-Fites, please note that I am actually re-posting this question on a friend's behalf since I deemed his results at Yahoo's hive-mind lame. I am gonna withhold my two cents, though it pains me, and just let him speak it.

I decided to let it go because I've been told that this happens commonly. Then her ex-roommate told me that it wasn't an accident, that the Mother was angry and pulled too hard. Then the Mother refused to take her to the doctor for fear of being reported (until she was pressed to do so).

Her ex-roommate wanted to report her to CPS, but has waited. The Mother never told me about the incident, then when she accidentally let it slip, played it off like an accident. She has also become an alcoholic, has left the daughter home alone by accident, and is generally unnurturing. Everyone agrees that she is not heeding the warning signs of her own neglect and totally refuses to take advice.

Would you report your child's parent as unfit? Particularly if you yourself are not in the position to take responsibility and don't have a large role in the child's life? (Wish I had more time, but that's another story.) I could be called a hypocrite because she has more responsibility than me.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Human Relations (38 answers total)
Umm, an alcoholic abusive mom who accidentally leaves a 2 year old home alone? I don't think you're going to get a diversity of answers on this one. Report now.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 1:08 PM on October 10, 2006

Wish I had more time, but that's another story.

Guess what? You're a parent, make the time.

What you and her mother are putting your daughter through at this moment is going to mess her up for life, and I can almost guarantee, continue the cycle.

Seek help from friends, family, government programs, or churches. I'm not really qualified to recommend specific organisations, but I do know the effects that a disfunctional parentage can have on children.

Stop the cycle.
posted by splatta at 1:09 PM on October 10, 2006

This should be reported. Worst case scenario she's done nothing wrong and goes through a hassle of proving it.

It sounds like there's more going on here - definitely enough to warrant a report. Best thing to do would be to call a child abuse hotline and get their take on it. 1-800-4-A-CHILD
posted by twiggy at 1:09 PM on October 10, 2006

Your first priority is to the safety of the child. Decide if it is with her mother, with foster care, another family member or with her mother after she has been scared straight.

If you didn't like the answers at Yahoo, then you probably have a pretty strong feeling and should go with that.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:11 PM on October 10, 2006

Why in the world WOULDN'T you report? Good lord, it's only a phone call versus your child's health, well-being and sense of being cared for!
posted by jasper411 at 1:13 PM on October 10, 2006

what Johnny said
posted by matteo at 1:13 PM on October 10, 2006

The arm-out-of-the-socket thing is, for what it's worth, a pretty common occurrence. I know a lot of very nice people to whom it's happened, and my own mother accidentally did it to her goddaughter years ago.

But the context you're providing--someone needs to advocate for that child.
posted by padraigin at 1:16 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

as someone who once was accused of this behavior, as well as being formally charged, i say report it. i was (rightfully) acquitted.

then i went into divorce court looking to protect my access to my kid. long story short, the abusive ex involved lost him to me. cost me a pile of money, a lot of free time, and at least one girlfriend. i made the time because it was my kid.

just the fact that you even question whether or not to report this to the authorities makes me question your suitability as a parent. get off your lazy ass and do what you are supposed to.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 1:16 PM on October 10, 2006

Johnny, matteo: I didn't like the answers, but I'm just the friend.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:18 PM on October 10, 2006

Well, it is perfectly possible for an adult to accidentally dislocate a child's arm. (The airplane swing is not such a good idea.) So that, in itself, doesn't mean anything. However, you describe a pattern of behavior which is not good. Do you feel confident that this woman is raising the child adequately? Apparently not. So what are you going to do about it?

Child welfare agencies are really a last resort. They do a better job of child-raising than leaving your kid out in the woods to be eaten by wolves, but only just.

I volunteer you for child-raising duty. You need to step up and take care of this child. Yes, it will be hard on you. So what?
posted by jellicle at 1:20 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

The original asker of this question is the 2yo's father, and is A) wondering whether to report this, and B) reluctant to take on the responsibility of caring for the kid.

While the mother is clearly unfit based on what we've been told, all the information we have on the father now suggests he's not much of an improvement.

News flash, dude: you've created a human being! Holy crap! That's amazing! Ensuring that human being turns out well is now your top priority for the next 16+ years, unless you have other kids. The fact (as evidenced by your reluctance) that you haven't put this together speaks ill of you. Get your shit together and take care of the kid.
posted by adamrice at 1:24 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just because you (the questioner, not Ambrosia) are less fit than the mother to parent the child does NOT mean that she IS fit to do so. It's absolutely possible that neither of you is a good candidate for responsible parenting, based on the information Ambrosia has posted here. As such, it probably shouldn't be up to you to make this decision for the kid, either.

Get a professional involved who can determine the fitness of the mother. The pro will do a better job at figuring out what's best than you will.
You don't have to be with your child to be there for her. Be there for her by having someone responsible make sure she is in a safe environment.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:27 PM on October 10, 2006

Man up, dude. We don't know your story as to why you don't have the time to be responsible about this, but unless you are in prison or in the military and posted overseas, I'm not terribly sympathetic. Getting involved in your child's life may sound like it is just too hard, but there is a child who needs a responsible adult in her life, and it sounds like her mother isn't it.

[derail] to Sprout the Vulgarian: I'm not the poster, Ambrosia Voyeur is...[/derail]
posted by ambrosia at 1:43 PM on October 10, 2006

Yeah, call CPS. I say that as a mandated reporter. If I heard about what you're describing in a situation that engaged my professional responsibilities, I'd report it as a matter of course. Particularly when the other parent was largely absent and unapprised due to divorce. CPS's job is to determine what to do in these sorts of cases.
posted by OmieWise at 1:44 PM on October 10, 2006

Sprout the Vulgarian has it right. I would also add that just because the father doesn't feel equipped to care for the child doesn't mean the abuse should go unreported. If the mother is deemed unfit, it doesn't mean dad is going to be "punished" for reporting it (by having to care for the kid).

At the risk of sounding like a narc, I would also add that we're talking about an unreported crime here. The arm-unsocketing is quite illegal in CA, and the roomie is a witness. Dad knows about it, didn't do anything about it, and is now an accessory (morally, if not legally). And if anything else bad happens to the kid, there's lots of blame to go around -- both in real space and this space.

I am not a lawyer, and I realize that this AskMe question could be entirely or partially fabricated. But child abuse, like spousal abuse, is "not uncommon" mainly because it frequently goes unreported. So I suggest you think about this, Ambrosia: If you believe more harm will come to this kid in the near future if someone does not turn mom in ASAP, then you need to go to the police. Not your friend -- you.
posted by turducken at 1:50 PM on October 10, 2006

So basically, the question is, "Should I continue to let this woman abuse this little girl because it would be inconvenient to me to parent my child?" Does that make your moral quandry a little clearer?

Call CPS. They won't make you man up and take care of the kid if you don't want to, but they will save her from the abusive, neglectful alcoholic in charge at the moment.
posted by headspace at 1:51 PM on October 10, 2006

The parent's of a 2yo chid I used to babysit accidently pulled out the child's socket while each holding one of her arms and swinging her down the sidewalk, while on a walk. They felt horrible about it and immediately took her to the Dr.

But given the surrounding circumstances you've described, I'm not sure this was an accident with your child. Perhaps reporting (you can go anon) to CPS will protect the child while also allowing the mother to get help and support as a single mother to a toddler with a largely absent and uninvolved father. Reporting this should be seen as a responsible and fatherly act.
posted by LadyBonita at 2:01 PM on October 10, 2006

If you can't step up and take over there's the foster system. Or adoption. Or extended family. Or... a ton of things. You can't take over. Fine. I have no idea why that is - maybe it's a great reason. Doesn't matter. There's a system in place to deal with kids not getting the care they deserve. Maybe they'll come in and be capable of getting your ex to enter a treatment program or will scare her into shaping up. Impossible to say.

What is possible to say is that the current situation is unacceptable. Call the authorities.
posted by phearlez at 2:08 PM on October 10, 2006

I'm basically seconding, thirding etc what is above, but I can't believe that these questions have to be asked. If the asker doesn't have the time to care for a child, then it's his responsibility to provide someone who can - especially if the existing carer is abusing them.

It's not rocket science - you go in, remove the child from the situation, and do all you can to make their life secure and happy. Even if inconveniences you.

I would also suggest a vascetomy.
posted by saturnine at 2:09 PM on October 10, 2006

If that story is entirely factual and not exaggerated by the roommate or poster, then I really have to question why it has to be even asked. Run don't walk to CPS.

If there is some question of its veracity, then you can really screw things up for a family going that route.
posted by Manjusri at 2:16 PM on October 10, 2006

Jesus christ, people - how can you all make so many assumptions based on so little info? Maybe the guy's incarcerated. Maybe he's in a residence for chronically mentally ill people. Maybe he's in rehab. Maybe he lives in a homeless shelter because he's drug addicted. Maybe he lives in another country and has no money to get the kid there. Maybe he's developmentally disabled. Maybe, maybe, maybe....

Yeah, maybe he's an irresponsible asshole, but come on. You have no clue. He says he's not in a position to be responsible, and doesn't explain past that. End of story. It makes a world of difference why that is, it might simply be out of his control.

To respond to the question, PLEASE report this behavior to the proper agency, for hte sake of a child who might very well be in imminent danger.
posted by tristeza at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2006

The thing about being a parent is that you are no longer your #1 priority. Your kids are. This girl is far more important than whatever it is that keeps you from having more time. Rearrange your life to fulfill your parental responsibilities.
posted by LarryC at 2:33 PM on October 10, 2006

This vasectomy business is a bit rude, given what you have to go on here. Don't mean to start a flame war, it's just that this time I have personal knowledge of how fragile, if misanthropic, the questioner is, and insults don't get results.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:39 PM on October 10, 2006

strike misanthropic... i seem to persistenly believe it means misguided. irony.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:41 PM on October 10, 2006

I have to single one element out here:

...the Mother was angry and pulled too hard.

I hear anger and harm in the same incident. Full stop, I don't care about the rest of the details. Call whoever you feel needs to be called, but change the situation. Is there family you can turn to, either hers or yours? Is there a safe home you can provide for the child, either yours or someone you trust, while you and her figure something out?

Whatever happens later, down the road is not your problem right now, right now you have to protect your daughter.
posted by Skorgu at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2006

Jesus christ, people - how can you all make so many assumptions based on so little info?

If people are making assumptions, then it's the responsibility of the asker to clarify a bit. Otherwise, he's just wasting everyone's effort to answer the question, isn't he?

By all means, report the abusive parent. And if there's nothing preventing you from being a man and a father to your child but lousy excuses, it's time to step up.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:41 PM on October 10, 2006

check out alanon.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:00 PM on October 10, 2006

I think it's unlikely that CPS is going to swoop down and spirit this child off based on this small amount of evidence. This is a common injury, and can happen with only a small amount of force. (My son did it twice.)

But, this mother clearly needs help. She is not coping, her friends don't seem to be able to support her, and it is only a matter of time before she does do something that will lead to CPS or the Police stepping in. What you should do is find out what other services are available in your area for families. When I was in the hospital after giving birth, someone came by with pamphets on a government initiative to help families in crisis. Some churches would have similar programs. If you can't find what you want in the phone book, call the maternity ward or some OB's offices to see if they have pamphets for a similar program.

Maybe she just needs some support to stop this behavior. Or maybe these organizations can help make the decision if CPS should be called.
posted by saffry at 4:10 PM on October 10, 2006

Tell him to see if he can find friends or family who would be willing to take the child for a while (or permanently, for that matter), and get her mother help.

Personally, I would attempt to find a solution that only involved CPS if it were the absolute last resort. Not for either of the parents, but for the little girl. My understanding is that once a child goes into the system it can be very difficult to get them out. And growing up in foster care isn't a very healthy situation, either.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 5:17 PM on October 10, 2006

Thanks for all the input so far everybody. I think it will help.

MegoSteve: The assumptions and all aren't so bad, because for me at least, and hopefully for my pal, t's helped make the situation a lot more black and white than some of the mitigating details let it seem.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:24 PM on October 10, 2006

Okay, so now that the Mefite Collective has almost unanimously come up with an obvious solution, I move that this thread be closed.

I also second the vasectomy suggestion. I can think of a couple of women over the years I'm glad I didn't knock up accidentally, but in my case I just got lucky. (Whether it's a Good Thing to be able to screw drunken floozies knowing you're "fixed" is a probably a matter for yet another very personal thread -- offhand I'd say "Flip a coin.")
posted by davy at 6:04 PM on October 10, 2006

I don't know, but I read this very differently.
First, I dislocated my son's elbow TWICE, once when I was changing him out of his (slightly too small) pajamas when he was 6mo old, and once when he was one, lifting him by one arm up some stairs.
The first time I panicked and thought "Oh my God, they'll think I'm an abusive father." Luckily, rational thought prevailed and a very kind doctor said it was quite common.
Second, I'm reading this as the nasty speech of a bitter ex, trying to slander the mother. "[G]enerally unnurturing" is pretty open-ended cant against her after some rather vague and possibly fictitious accusations. Why this clearly, and self-described, incapable jerk is being believed, and being encouraged to possibly ruin this woman's life, I can't quite understand. If he's asking these questions in a reasonable way, perhaps he has a nefarious hidden motive? This screams BITTER BREAKUP to me.
posted by johngumbo at 6:25 PM on October 10, 2006

(Wish I had more time, but that's another story.) I could be called a hypocrite because she has more responsibility than me.
You are a hypocrite. She doesn't have more responsiblity than you - you are both the child's parents and have equal responsibility.

Time to step up and take on your responsibilities like a man. Otherwise, you are no better than the mother. I would only report this to the authorities if all else fails - that route generally makes things worse for all parties rather than better, in my experience.

obviously, the above is for the friend, not the poster
posted by dg at 7:27 PM on October 10, 2006

Weighing in on the dislocated arm angle, when I was 6 or 7, I dislocated my youngest sister's shoulder (she must have been 1 or 2 at the time). We were playing "prop a box on the couch to make a slide" and it popped out when I was helping her up. My mom took her to the doctor & they gave her the 3rd degree about how it happened, bordering on accusing her of doing it. When the doc was convinced it wasn't abuse, they said it was really common, to the point where some children learn to pop their shoulders back in.

The doctor who saw [his] daughter probably asked some questions about the circumstances. It seems that this actually happened a few weeks ago, but maybe speaking with the doctor (taking her to a follow up appt?) to see if he had concerns about abuse would be a good place to actually start without directly calling CPS. The doc likely has procedures in place to handle that sort of thing & could help or advise.
posted by good for you! at 8:04 PM on October 10, 2006

Re: dislocation of a child's arm by an adult who is holding the child's hand: it's common enough that there's a line illustration in Moore's Atlas of Anatomy, depicting just how it happens.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:11 PM on October 10, 2006

When CPS gets a report, they don't just take the reporter's word for it and go OMIGOD SEIZE THE KID!! They investigate. If there's evidence that the child's care is inadequate (such as leaving a 2 year old home alone, or neglecting to seek medical care for a painful injury), CPS generally starts by offering services such as parenting classes, drug/alcohol counseling, daycare assistance, etc.

If CPS finds it necessary to take the child from the home, it's because the investigation turned up blatant signs that the child is in imminent danger. And if a court allows CPS to hold the child for more than a couple days, it's because there was good evidence that the danger was not only imminent but still ongoing. None of these stuff is done lightly, not least because the system is already so badly over-burdened already.

Even when a judge rules that removal is necessarry, CPS usually tries to find a relative or family friend willing to assume temporary guardianship while the mother gets more services and many more opportunities to prove that she's ready to resume custody. Long-term removal means that the parent is seriously messed up and has repeatedly proven incapable of putting the child's basic needs first.

Even if the child does wind up in the fucking disaster area that is state foster care, unless the father has legally surrendered (or been stripped of) parental rights, he should be able to step up and get her out of there any time he's ready to take on responsibility for her care. The court would probably require that CPS continue looking in on the child for a while after, and likely would impose restrictions on the mother's access while she's getting her own shit together, but let's be clear about the bottom line: reporting scary parenting does != ripping a child from her home.

On way or another, if this little girl winds up in worse circumstances than she's already in, it'll be because you chose to do nothing. There's a 2 year old girl needing someone to protect her. If her mother's ability to protect her is in doubt, and you're not in a position to protect her directly, pick up the phone now and report so someone else can be there for her.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 8:32 PM on October 10, 2006

Pardon me, but some of the responders here have their heads too far up their asses. I would like to salute the poster's friend for being man enough to plainly state he isn't in a position to take responsibility (regardless of what that really is about).

The most clear thing here is that inaction is not an option. CPS? Maybe. Maybe required by law, depending on location (some places have laws mandating reporting).

Yes, the child is #1 priority. That doesn't mean I can't offer sympathy for a single mother that isn't coping. I've seen that too many times. Kids happen, and sadly they happen even to parents that aren't ready to cope.

I don't have kids, and I'm not always happy about it. Yet, I am not sure how well I'd cope, either. Fortunately, I don't have responsibility for any, and it's almost entirely optional (barring familial disaster resulting in nieces or nephews neeeding a home).

I care about what happens to kids. I also care about what happens to parents. I think that's the best position to look at such things.
posted by Goofyy at 6:30 AM on October 11, 2006

Two separate issues here. Assuming the socket in question was an elbow, then yes, that is very common and not something that is necessarily a sign of abuse. In fact, "nursemaid's elbow" is so often caused innocently that emergency department staff don't usually call it in unless there is some other reason to suspect abuse. If it was a shoulder, though, not so much -- a shoulder dislocation in a 2-yr-old at the hands of an adult would be suspicious and called in to CPS.

The more pressing issue is the asker's question of the mother's alcoholism and general fitness. Even in the absence of any injury, those observations and/or suspicions should always be reported.
posted by CodeBaloo at 8:48 PM on October 11, 2006

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