When to report something as child abuse?

I walked out of my apartment yesterday afternoon with a friend of mine. We were walking to the car when we heard someone yelling. I looked across the street just in time to see/hear this woman saying to her son, “How fucking stupid can you be?” He looked to be about 7 or so. He was crying, with snot and spit all over his face. He nearly got hit by a car because he wasn’t paying attention to crossing the street.

She slammed the door, then a few seconds later she opened it back up and started yelling at him again. My friend and I were talking to him, making sure he was ok, etc. He was pretty hysterical. I looked over at her and said, “Don’t yell at him like that, he’s just a little kid. You should be ashamed of yourself!, etc.” She came back with some explanation of how he had wasted $10 or something blah blah blah. I said it didn’t matter what he did, you don’t say that shit to a little kid. She slammed the door.

It got me thinking and I remember seeing that kid outside crying a few different times since I’ve lived there. He’s little. I mean skinny and small. His mom is a large (300 lb or so). I don’t know that she abuses him physically, but I would imagine she does. The way she was screaming at him was hateful. It wasn’t the normal way you yell at your kid.

I can’t stop thinking about it and I don’t know what to do. My mom said I should call child protective services, but my friend says I should wait so they don’t realize it was me. I’ve also thought about contacting the school, but I don’t know the kid’s name or anything.

Advice please.

I’m very happy to read this. There’s plenty of people who are concerned, but don’t really do anything about it. It’s great that you decided to take charge and talk back to the mother.

It would be wise to look into what’s going on with this kid. But remember that sometimes a situation like this is unfortunately the lesser of two evils. Although a child might have a difficult life at home, if he’s taken into the custody of the state he could have an equally troublesome upbringing. Please don’t make it your personal vandetta to “rescue” this kid before finding out what’s really going on.

And I do think you should find out what’s going on. Are you friendly at all with your neighbors? Ask around about him. And please keep us posted.

I’m also worried that if she thinks I called CPS, then she will do tit for tat and call them on me as well.

For now, I’m asking around and keeping a close eye on things. It worries me terribly though.

I am just a uni student, but here;s my take on it:

If you know what school he goes to, even if you dont know his name, by reporting his approximate age/appearance and his address, you might be able to find out if a teacher has already reported the same thing. In quebec at least, teachers are required by law to report anything that might be considered child abuse…although sometimes it takes months or even years to get to the bottom of it. Its at least one avenue.

Asking others in your neighbourhood might help too, at least to get some back story to all this. I wouldn’t worry about her calling CPS on you, if you are a decent parent. It can and will be viewed as a retaliatory (?) attempt by her, and will not be taken as seriously as your initial report on her. If others in your neighbourhood have seen the same behaviour, I would consider somewhat of a joint report, if thats possible.

Hopefully things can work out ok, whatever that might be for this kid. Good luck!

Well, it’s not as though they go around grabbing up people’s kids at any provocation. You’re an ok mom, right? Whip your kids with an extention cord? Keep them on a strict diet of water and ground nuts? No? Don’t worry.

If she’s so open with her, um, questionable parenting, other people in the neighborhood must have seen her. If there’s anyone around you trust, go and get their “testimony”. Tell them you’re fixing to do something about it, and get them to back you up. DON’T talk to her friends.

If you wanna be super-sneaky and you’re really motivated, you can tape her doing this stuff.

A couple of points to consider:

  1. I do not think it is “abusive” to swear in front of one’s kids. I do not think it is wholesome, either, but there is a fine line to be drawn.

  2. I do not think that spanking is “abusive” either, as long as it is done in a manner which will not physically harm the kid. Sure, it pains me to see a little kid get a good swat on the bottom in public, but sometimes it may be the only form of negative reinforcement that works.

  3. It is impossible for you to know the home circumstances. Perhaps the child is well-mannered at home but has a tendancy to mess up while in public. Perhaps it is the mother who has an aversion to public places.

I posted all of these points just to reinforce my belief that it is important to try to cast reasonable doubt on situations such as these. If you ask yourself all three questions, and still have no reasonable doubt in your mind that the child is being abused, then take action.

I have had a lot of opportunities in my life to witness home situations that were not condusive to a positive upbringing for children. My company’s policy was to call social services in all cases where it was apparent that the child was in jeopardy. After seeing quite a few homes where I would not want to live and bringing these to the attention of the company, I found only two were actually reported. One was a case where human urine and feces was strewn all over the floors in all of the rooms of the home promoting a horrible roach infestation, and the other was a case where the family could not afford to pay their gas bill (but could afford cable TV).

There have been all sorts of situations where a report was not made…cases where abuse was apparent/visible or where drug use (including alcohol) was apparent/visible.

The best thing to do, IMHO, is to monitor your neighbor…but not in a way that would seem like interfering. If you notice her on the street with her child, take notice. Do not take action until you witness some sort of physical abuse or extremely severe verbal abuse. And remember that swearing does not constitute verbal abuse.

I think it is great that you are taking an interest in this child’s welfare. However, I have seen all too many instances where a child was removed from a home when it was completely inappropriate.

So, Bjohn, you think it’s not verbal abuse to say “How fucking stupid can you be?” to a little kid? I see that as abuse. And, as I’ve said before, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen him outside crying.

I’m not doing anything yet. In no way am I trying to “remove the child” from his home. I just think the situation deserves some attention.

this happened to my sister… she reported someone who’s house conditions were NO place to keep a baby and toddler… several months later, someone dobbed in my sister - she has 5 children (was acutally in hosiptal having the 5th when the authorities decided to check up on her…our mother was there looking after the other children)

Anyway, it wasn’t long before the authorities realised what was going on… it was obvious my sister wasn’t doing anything to her kids - and when my sister mentioned having reported this other person recently…they couldn’t acutally acknowledge that it was her that made the report, but they basically let my sister know that it WAS her… they didn’t think twice about taking any action against my sister because it was obvious that there was a “revenge” thing going on.

Sad news is, situation with the other family hasn’t changed…the house is still in pretty bad condition (as far as i know) and the children (now three of them) still live there

"Well, it’s not as though they go around grabbing up people’s kids at any provocation. …’

Maybe not where you are, but I have seen it happen. When it happened, CPS refused to even consider the other side of the story & a simple $5 worth of detective work would have shown the kid wasn’t telling the truth. CPS simply said ‘case closed’ & the kid got taken & never brought back.

Frankly, I would keep my nose out of this. In my opinion, Folks have a right to scream at their kids if they want & people do have ‘off days’. Maybe I would offer to babysit the kid for free when things get hot, to take off some of the pressure on the folks, that’s worth alot to them.

My first post :eek:

This is a tough situation, IMO. My first reaction was to find the website of my state’s Child Protective Services department. It has definitions of child abuse, when to report it, and some of their procedures for investigating it. For an example, here’s TN’s, your state may be different: TN Department of Children’s Services

It’s against the law in TN not to report child abuse when you see it. From the website it also seems abuse common, unfortunately. They take kids out of the most abusive homes and, it looks to me, try to rehabilitate the parents and kids in less abusive homes in order to keep the family intact - and probably to use limited resources like foster homes in the most efficent manner possible.

State child protective agencies get thousands of reports of child abuse each year, they really do have a lot of calm, well-thought out information on how to handle it and I would not be afraid to call them to get some of that information. Some have hotlines.

I don’t know what you should do, honestly. It is quite possible that she only verbally abuses the child and doesn’t touch him. Still abuse, but impossible to prove.

However, I think you’re right in believing that you saw a little piece of a pattern. There’s a big difference between the parent who yells “Don’t ever do that again” and the one who curses the child out for being “fucking stupid.”

I don’t think verbal abuse is impossible to prove…

“only verbally abuses” tends to give the impression that you think this isn’t such a serious issue… I’m sure you didn’t mean to give that impression, but verbal abuse can be as damaging as any other kind

For some perspective, my mother sometimes called us “fucking stupid” and “fucking lazy”. She also once chased us around the house with a twirling baton. My father once spanked us out of anger and embarrassment when earlier his friends dropped in unannounced and found the place to be dirty (trash, no feces). It was our “job” at 7 and 8 to keep the place clean. Our step-dad was a pothead when we were little.

I would not have wanted to be taken away, then or now after some thinking back on it. Sometimes it’s hard for an outsider to see the love in a family. It was there in ours and we weren’t in life-threatening situations so the verbal abuse at times was something we could overcome. Unlike the neighbor little girl who was sexually abused by her mother and mother’s boyfriend. Or the other neighbor kids who had lice and whose dad was a pedophile (first hand experience though gratefully “light” and brief).

If there’s serious abuse then it’s a shame to let it continue. In families where there really is love and not gross mistreatment they can overcome things on their own or with help. Probably befriending the kid and staying calm in either case is a good thing.

Um, Tal. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of verbal abuse. I know it’s damaging.

You’re right, it isn’t impossible, I should have worded it “very hard to do.” I simply meant that Indygrrl is not in a position where she could prove it; however CPS definitely is.

Magickly Delicious - …i said i’m sure you didn’t mean to give that impression… i meant that :slight_smile:

Yes. If a child reports their own abuse, factual or not, it’s likely to be taken care of.

BUT. If a stranger that you don’t have very much contact with, add to that, a stranger who has been reported on, who is having trouble with the law herself, goes about pointing her finger at you, they ARE going to do detective work. You better believe it.

If you feel as though this woman is gonna send pple after you, make nice with the kids and keep your house clean, just in case.

If you mention to the investigators that you have reported someone recently, and could this possibly be revenge, they might ignore it, but, again, if you yourself make a point of not being unsavory, then they probably won’t.

Two things to say: First of all, tit for tat can definitely happen and be a royal pain–I had this happen with the Humane Society, rather than CPS, when I reported that my downstairs neighbors were abusing their dog.

Secondly, I noticed you mentioned that the child is physically very small and the mother is large. When I was a kid and my family went on vacation, my mom had to take my brother to a local doctor to check out an injury (fractured finger) that needed to be monitored. That doctor called our regular doctor’s office because he thought there was a chance of child abuse; particularly as my mother was very large and my brother very slender. There was absolutely no abuse there; it simply happens to be the way they’re built. Anecdotal, yes, but just a warning not to assume abuse because of difference in body size.

Sorry to bump this, but I’m still needing advice. I’m going to call the school this morning, but all I have is an address. Since the incident I haven’t seen the kid or the mom.

It’s safe to say I’m freaked out about this. I’m about ready to just call CPS and take my chances on her calling them on me.

I agree that calling the school is a good idea.

My parents fostered a few children, including this boy, and they tried to give him a good home. My parents’ house was the foster home just before this. (They took him from their home and put them in this one when they thought the parents were on to his location.) Um, I guess I should mention that my parents never did this: “Experts who have reviewed the case said the Lappes and other foster parents used holding to induce the Kerr children to confess – falsely – that their real parents were Satan worshippers and cannibals.” By the time they got the kid, the damage was already done. All they did was take care of him the same way they took care of us (with the exception that he never got spanked) and bring him to CPS for his visits to his parents.

But they also fostered two babies (2 and 3 at the time) whose mother just didn’t know how to take care of children or keep a job. Those two went back to their mother after she completed the stuff the CPS assigned her. It’s possible that the woman just needs to be taught the right way to take care of a child.

I guess my point is, if the kid is taken away, it doesn’t always mean bad things for him or the parents.

If you ever have a chance to talk to the kid alone, even briefly, please say to him that if his mum or dad ever hit him, he should tell his teachers.