What constitutes neglectful supervision?

Reyna - posted on 11/22/2011 ( 16 moms have responded )

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I am not a parent, but a fairly new wife to a man with an adult daughter with 3 kids (so he's a grandfather). My husband's daughter's smallest child - a toddler, about 2-1/2 years old - has gotten lost on numerous occasions (so I have heard). Once in their neighborhood, once at a party (at a public fairgrounds where he was found wandering 2 parking lots away from the building where the party was), and once climbed up a ladder almost to the top of a roof. Whilst at my home, he was let to wander in the street and be in the backyard alone with a lit BBQ (albeit the type that has 4 wheels, a propane tank and a cover where the food is concealed). I have heard more instances of him getting loose from his mother and her not knowing where he is.



My issue is that her father does not want me to address this issue. I have decided that she is not welcome in our home unless she can agree to personally watch this child (she often delegates to her oldest, an 11 year old daughter at which supervision, understandably, this 11 year old often fails as well). I have addressed this and she claimed he is just so active, and that I need to learn her "story" to understand why she is the way she is. In essence, my husband's daughter did not respond to the substance of the issue, just shifted the blame to some "story" that she claims explains things. After addressing this with her after the first event (street wandering, lit BBQ), she let it happen again (this time she was inside the house while her son was atop the pool ladder; other adults were outside and could see him, but all of them have a hands-off approach in addition to not wanting to either pick up the mantle of caring for the child, or telling her to). This family seems to ignore the risks associated with her neglectful supervision.



At each of these events, my daughter-in-law sits with the adults and enjoys herself, pays no mind to this child unless he comes around her (she remains stationary at these events) while I am extremely nervous about this child's safety and end up running around trailing the child to make sure he keeps out of things/harm's way. If it helps, I suspect part of her story is that she is a single mom, on welfare, with the father of her youngest 2 children in prison (for theft, most likely). This mom has no relationship with the father of her first child, the 11 year old (he was a brief fling where DNA was required to prove paternity), and after her first child by the second man, he was put in jail/prison; when he got out they decided to have their 3rd child. Thereafter, he was put back in prison before that 3rd child could be born -- the toddler discussed here -- and remains in prison today. I give these details not to make this mom look bad, but because she raises the spector that her "story" explains her current behavior.



This is causing marital conflict, and my husband has actually told me that I get great satisfaction from telling his daughter that she is a neglectful parent (he bases this on the series of texts I had with her where her "story" comments were made in response to me asking her why she doesn't feel she needs to watch her child while they are at our home, where I specifically gave the pool ladder, lit BBQ and street wandering as examples). This entire current issue (my husband telling me I get satisfaction from reminding her she's neglectful) followed me texting her to say her two children are invited to a holiday event, but because the little one requires constant supervision and based on her past iniability to do that, this event is not for her son or her.



Does anyone have any advice for me? Insights?

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Eron - posted on 11/26/2011

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wow this sounds like a lot to deal with, i understand where your coming from and your not wrong about the safety issues. The first thing i want to advise you, is please do not ban her from your home, yes its hard work, but for the sake of the children - your step-grandchildren, let your home be a safe and happy place for them, dont punish them because your (very understandably) angry with their mum.

You say you dont have children, and im wondering if maybe thats why you find it hard to have any understanding for the way she behaves.

She isnt coping, she may have made some wrong life choices, but neither the mother or the children should suffer for that, she needs help to make all of their lives better

What you see as "stories" could actually be an indication of how desperate she feels right now. Your husband must be very worried and the fact that he thinks you get satisfaction from her misery shows that he knows she isnt doing well. Its very easy to judge a situation from the outside when you dont have to do any of the hard work or make any of the sacrifices of parenting, i'll bet she never thought her life would turn out this way.

Even you sit back and decide on the easy options with the children, the older two are welcome to come on holiday, but the youngest is a bit too much work....your not happy to commit yourself to looking after all three children for a holiday because the little one takes alot of looking after, but you criticise her for struggling with the same thing every day and with no help.

If you want to help her and the children, then have some grandparent time and give her a bit of time to herself, set clear boundaries when its grandparent time, you are in charge of the kids and she should go off and have time for herself, if you invite her round with the kids, then she is in charge and she looks after them, and if she isnt paying attention to them tell her, stop him/her from doing that its dangerous.

it is very easy for young children to wonder off even if your back is only turned for a second, but this has happened too many times and its dangerous. Stop looking down on her for her failings, support and help her to do better, if your on her side she cant be defensive and argue with you. Even if you tell her she's failing, and instead of argueing with you she agrees but instead of giving you a story she tells the truth and admits she's struggling and maybe even depressed - what happens next? do you decide to help when she admits it? do u make her feel worse and leave her to it? These children are a part of your family and so is your husbands daughter, show her some unconditional positive regard and i think you will start to see a different woman.

I know its hard to be kind to someone in this situation, if im wrong im sorry, but she sounds like a desperately unhappy woman + that affects her children, you could help them if you want to, but if you dont then you shouldnt criticise her for failing in something that you've never tried to do and arnt prepared to be a part of x

Eron - posted on 11/26/2011

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dont apologise for sounding out of sorts, you are clearly worried and i think thats a good thing, because wot you describe doesnt sound like a happy home for the children, and it sounds like you're really looking for a way to make things better for them.

You say "I simply wanted to know whether my view that she was being neglectul was a reasonable one" - after saying that your husband has already stated that he believes you get satisfaction from telling her she's neglectful. Now im sorry if im wrong but i get the feeling that your looking for validation, if i said yes she's definitely neglectful, would the problem be solved? It might make you feel better, but you dont seem to think that shes so neglectful that you spend more time with the children i can honestly say that things dont sound good, and your right to worry, but as you point out i dont know everything.

Im not trying to insult you, but as someone that read this, and that doesnt know any of you, i get the impression that she is desperately unhappy and needs help - she may not be doing well but she must be trying because she's still looking after them (even if she's only managing the basics) she could have dumped them on you + her dad, or her mum, or even CPS, but she hasnt,she's trying.

I would never suggest that you take over the parenting, i think that wud be the worst thing that you could do, + its right that she should be made to understand the things she does/has done that isnt acceptable. You cant help her by ignoring the problems.Saying that, i do believe that you can set rules for the children in your home, you cant enforce your rules in their home, but at your home by giving them your rules and enforcing them yourself, you provide a tiny peace of stability. I understand you dont think its fair that you should have to do that if their mother is there, but its for them, not her, and it only takes a few weeks of effort for them to learn - even the youngest can be taught where he is allowed to play and what he is not allowed to touch, yes it should be mum that watches him, but its a good lesson for children to be taught - this is my house and these are my rules.

Again im sorry but 3 is not too young for a sleepover if you truely belieive his mum isnt looking after him, in fact thats a good reason to let him have sleepovers, and babysitting and running around after a toddler on many occasions is absolutely nothing like being with 3 children 24/7 by yourself. What i suggested was grandparent time if only to help her see you understand that its hard and your trying to help.

i feel for you all, i know you have probably done more than she deserves, but from what you say here i cant help but feel your biggest issue is that you disaprove, i say that because if you thought the children were that unsafe with her, then you keep them with you as often as possible - for their sake - not hers.

Maybe she is terrible and theres nothing you can do, but telling her she's neglectful hasnt improved things, im just trying to offer a perspective that u may not have thought of because your in the middle of all the stress. I hope things get better soon, and i hope you continue to keep your eye on things x

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I've been a single mom on welfare since my 3.5 year old son was born. The 2 worst incidents of his life so far were on his father's 'watch', so that isn't a good excuse for not watching your kid. Little ones can be fast AND sneaky, so a few nearby escapes I could understand... especially if she was looking for him right away.

I don't really understand how you can invite 2 of her sons w/out her or the little one though? Who's going to be responsible for THEM w/out her there?

I definitely think this woman is neglecting to supervise her child, but I think kindness and helpfulness may go further than accusations.

Of course, I'm the 'self appointed watcher' of all kids when I'm around them. I can't help myself. If I see a child not being watched, heading for trouble, or seeming lost... I keep an eye on them until they are safe or intervene to make sure they are safe.

Ashley - posted on 11/23/2011

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I have at times, left my daughter (age 2) unattended outside in our enclosed backyard, while grabbing things inside, sometimes with the BBQ on but we have told her since she could move on herself that the BBQ was hot and not to touch it, she avoids it like the plague. At families homes, it may appear she gets free run, but if shes out of sight for more than 5-10 minutes i usually go looking for her or have someone else find her, she usually isnt far..usually in the pantry looking for a snack. Now if we are somewhere where she isnt "contained" ie front yard, store, fair grounds, she is in my constant vision. I do try not to judge people on one sided stories but it does to an extent sound like negligence. Its unfortunate that the family doesnt see the issues, or seem to care. Sometimes i strongly agree that people need to learn certain lessons that hard way, whether it affects anyone or not. Good Luck!!

Ashley - posted on 11/23/2011

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Reyna I know what you mean about the neglect... I am always aware of where my kids are or if my mother or someone I trust is watching him then I can relax my guard somewhat. but my cousin is always losing her son... expecting that the others around her are 'watching' him. Ummm just b/c there are other adults in the vacinity doesn't mean you child is being properly watched! She would rather party with the other cousins than be bothered with the kids. I get mad b/c her son usually ends up my responsibility b/c I always have games and toys for my kids and I gladly let her little one play with mine but I do not feel that it is my responsibility to know if her son took off but I feel bad for him so I end up being his surrogate mom for the night. (this was at my grandparents anniversary in which I hadn't seen my family in almost a year) she sees them all the time but never considered that I might want to be social at all. Thankfully eventually her dad the boys grandpa took over watching him when my grandmother complained that she hadn't gotten to talk to me yet :) My mom watched my boys for me and I finally got the visit with my family I wanted. She is never reprimanded b/c she is a "young mom" and deserves her own fun too... I am young (27) and I like fun too! lol. She gets handled with little kid gloves b/c of her issues as well and it makes me crazy. But I just leave it be b/c my family wont let anyone speak up about it or hurt her feelings. Actually we usually talk behind her back (yikes to say) and nothing gets said to her face :S



As for your question :P I think that if a child is in anyway left in danger while the parent is there then yes it is neglect. As for the handling of the situation you need to be firm on your stance in this matter. Also check the laws in your area to see what it says about neglect of a child.

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Stacey - posted on 06/03/2014

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Also dealing with an uninvolved/neglectful mom at my home. My 25 year old (Bipolar) daughter is constantly texting and ignoring her 3.5 year old son. In the two weeks she's been in my home, he's poured nail polish all over my stairs, lipstick on walls, playing with fish hooks, walked away from her, into the pool area. She feeds him junk food and fast food, no home cookin. Of course shopping is also a joy to witness; me cutting coupons and taking online surveys to earn discounts at the grocery store, spending hard earned cash and being frugal...while she flies through buying prepackaged, instant, individual sized, etc..whatever she wants, and doesn't bother to coupon because it's food stamp money. She doesn't earn it, so she doesn't care. She has no conscience, is disgustingly promiscuous, steals, lies constantly, and brings criminals and drug addicts around the family...and the little boy loves her anyway. They are at my home now because CPS went to her apartment and said it was unfit for a child. I'm at my wits end. Right now, it's 4:00 and I am devoid of sleep because he isn't feeling well and she is unwilling/unable to soothe him properly. My feelings towards her, are almost hateful at this point. My grandson deserves better. :'(

Eron - posted on 12/02/2011

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I dont know if you got it but i sent you a personal message, because i feel that despite good intentions - you may feel insulted by my perception of your situation. Which i apologise for! i do not want to insult you or any one else ever! I hoped that hearing an opposite side to your feelings might be helpful to the position that your in, because if i just agree and call her a bad mum then nothing good can happen - if i challenge the way you feel, then maybe you will be able to look at things differently and maybe see something that you didnt see before. I dont for one second believe that you can cure all of these problems, because she has to do that for herself, The only suggestion i can make is still, set rules for your home and stick to them - either she follows those rules and accepts that the children have to behave in this way in your home or she has to take them home. You do have to keep being strong but do try to look at how she's feeling, it will make a world of difference if she thinks that your on her side xxx

Reyna - posted on 12/02/2011

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Okay, well things actually got worse and where it stands today is it's a little better. It isn't that I don't like the views you have presented, I actually agree with them. But like the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but can't make him/her drink it. What I mean by that is that you sound like a reasonable person. A person that maybe could be respectful to someone you don't like (whether your "dislike" was well-founded or not), for the greater good. I feel I am one of othese people. However, I do not belive my daughter in law is one of those people. How can I express this to you, though, without you thinking I am unwilling to help? How can I express to you all I have tried to do, with little to no respect (I couldn't care less about a thank you, I really could not; but what I cannot deal with is someone who deliberately tries to visit large and consistent doses of risk, drama, pain and financial irrisponsibilty on me and my husband. You might wonder why I feel "me and my husband" are being lumped together; that's because I feel whatever he experiences, by association I have to deal with. This is my second marriage, and his third, and I want nothing more than for these new people who have come into my life to be relatively happy and healthy. In short, Eron, I do not feel I am in a position to make one bit of a difference for my husband's daughter. I say this after thinking long and hard about it for days, and reviewing in my mind what I have tried so far. If you would like some more short examples. I would be very happy to give them to you. Maybe you can stand in her shoes, and mine, and give me some more insight. I actually have been thinking ofy ou over this past week and, really, I have had good thoughts about you but I wondered what you would say if I gave you some more information about what I am dealing with. Does that sound possible?

Reyna - posted on 12/02/2011

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Hello again, eron, once again i tried to post but it went into the internet world and is nowhere to be found, I don't think. I will try again now...

Eron - posted on 12/02/2011

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hello Reyna, just wondered how things have been for you this week? I understand that you are not happy with the view that i have presented to you, but i actually do care, i truely believe happy mummys have happy well looked after children, she may not deserve your help or your sympathy but you are in a position to make a difference to that family, this site is supposed to offer support to mums who need it. As your husbands daughter she will always be in your life. I honestly dont know what you feel the best solution will be, you can only do what you feel is right. Being a mum can be hard at times and we all need support. I really hope things improve, not because i know it all but because i would hate to be in that position, + if i were in your place i would rather know that i did everything i could do than ask myself if i could have done more at such a difficult time xxx

Reyna - posted on 11/26/2011

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Eron, I think you have it exactly right; I do disapprove but we really do disagree on what the best solution may be. Thank you, nonetheless for your caring clarification of your thoughts and I really will keep your comments in mind. Thank you again for the time you took out of your life to help me. It is much appreciated and I eally do respect your views and your willingness to jump in the fray so to speak with your perspective as well as your offering a solution (and your thinking behind it). Thank you so much and have a great day!

Reyna - posted on 11/26/2011

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Eron, thanks for your reply. I tried to reply once before, but don't know what happened to it. I'd like some more information, if I may. I am wondering why you might think my holding my daughter-in-law accountable for her behavior is punishing her. I do care for these children very much, but I can not continue to step in and care for her child as though nothing is wrong. Most of the incidences I have cited didn't occur in my presence, but the ones that have end up occurring when a dynamic is set up that she is a guest with other adults, with little to no responsibility for her children (the two older ones do fine on their own). Her toddler is her responsibility; I am not angry at her, I simply wanted to know whether my view that she was being neglectful was a reasonable one, when viewed by actual parents. You also mentioned that I have criticised her for failing to do something that I have never tried. This isn't really the case; in fact, I have been a trusted babysitter for my own siblings. I have over the years logged many hours babysistting and otherwise caring for my neices and nephews and took direction from my siblings very well in making sure their kids were kept safe. I have a hard time understanding how she behaves when these incidences of losing her child has happened repeatedly in many different contexts and at many different venues.

Also, a don't see her as having "stories." She mentioned that when I asked her why she felt she didn't need to watch her toddler when she was at my house. I do agree that her mention of her "story" could actually be an indication of how desperate she feels right now. You said "Your husband must be very worried and the fact that he thinks you get satisfaction from her misery shows that he knows she isnt doing well." I completely agree with this. He saw his counselor last week and that counselor said he needed to talk with his daughter and tell her that she needs to seek some parenting assistance in the form of some classes, and that it is difficult for him to hear how she is struggling caring for her children. You also say "Its very easy to judge a situation from the outside when you dont have to do any of the hard work or make any of the sacrifices of parenting, ." I don't know how you can say that I am judging her. I really just wanted a forum in which to understand how I was feeling, and whether I was reasonable in how I felt.



"Even you sit back and decide on the easy options with the children, the older two are welcome to come on holiday, but the youngest is a bit too much work....your not happy to commit yourself to looking after all three children for a holiday because the little one takes alot of looking after, but you criticise her for struggling with the same thing every day and with no help." I really do not understand how you can say this. This has not been easy, it was been a struggle and I have indeed trailed after this child on multiple occasions. The one time when he wandered the street, I spent the entire time watching him and keeping him out of harm's way while my daughter in law sat with her back to him, enjoying the company of my other guests. When my sister told her her son was in the back with the BBQ, she ignored her. Also, she does not work outside of her home. She is 33 and goes to school; she has been doing so on and off for the past ten or so years. It really is astounding to me that you would expect me to reward my daughter in law's behavour when she has little to no respect for me. There is much I haven't included -- but I will tell you that I rented her a house, and within the first 2 months she said she wasn't going to pay the rent (I was charging her far less than the mortgage payment, and paying her utilities, to help her) and if I didn't like that then too bad, if I wanted to be paid then I needed to collect it from her dad (my husband). This, even though she receives every form of assistance possible, including a rent subsidy meant to use in paying her rent. (I feel you will take that as me judgin her; it is offered to demnstate that she has ample resources to pay her rent, if she wanted to.) I discussed that with my husband and he went over to talk to her (called her first to find out a good time to meet with her). When he asked about it, she told him to get the *expletive* out. How can I possibly help someone who behaves this way? By rewarding them for their poor behavior? Even her own mother willl not keep the two eldest overnight (she is re-married and her husband won't allow it), yet in the short three years I have been married to her dad, we have kept the oldest two on many occassions overnight (we haven't kept the toddler because he's barely become a toddler in that 3 year time span...and yes, in my mind, too young for sleepovers). So to say that I am punishing anyone makes no sense to me.



In closing, you say I look down on her for her failings. Why would you say that? Again, I merely asked for insight and left out much of the story that would make her look bad There's even more....her eldest says she used to leave in the middle of the night to visit her boyfriend; the eldest was 4 at the time. Never have I said a word to her children about their mother's (my daughter in laws) failings, nor did I air them fully here. Would that garner more sympathy for me? Impugn this mom (my daughter in law) even more? That's completely NOT my goal. In my own mind, I want/wanted to deal with the present. Many here said a call to CPS was in order. I really appreciated that, and it made me feel that my feeling that this child is in harm's way was not unfounded. I did not take it as other mom's judging her; neither did a feel a sense of superiority or empowerment reading their views. If something were to happen to this child, with everything I know, NOT having called CPS is a cross I will have to bear. I know in my heart I tried to do SOMETHING (ask my husband to address it with a counselor, sought help here). I just walked away thinking that there is a problem, and that my husband should get some counsel on how to address it. My husband discovered in counseling that he has, over the course of his daughter's parent-life, made every excuse in the book for her (his words not mine), and with the help of his counselor he would like to address this issue before this toddler gets hurt. I think that is real progress, not me giving her alone time and watching this child, only to hear more stories later that the toddler continues to get lost. In short, I think there is a real chance the issue may get addressed, rather than me enabling the behavior through not holding my daughter responsible for her children while she is in our home.



I am sorry if I sound out of sorts, I just don't understand your thinking or how, after all I have tried to help, I could be considered to be judgmental, looking down on her and unwilling to help.

Heather - posted on 11/24/2011

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Invite her out to lunch somewhere to discuss her "story" as she calls it so you can get to know her. She is now, your step-daughter. Regardless of what her or your husband say. Get to know her. If she is with you, keep an eye on her son. Offer to purchase a child bakpack/leash combo for him so she can keep him close and not loose him. Buy him an ID bracelet so that he will have information on him, should she lose him again. Other than that, the next time he is lost, call CPS and file an annonomous complaint.

Christy - posted on 11/23/2011

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I would make the call to CPS & tell them the issues, but know that you will likely face the blame of the family since you have mentioned it on more than one occasion, even though CPS can't reveal who made the report. My concern would be the safety of the child first & foremost. Best of luck to you.

Reyna - posted on 11/23/2011

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Thank you Katherine, you have no idea how helpful your comments are. Although I am NOT a mother (I am 48 though, with lots of experience supervising my now almost grown -- ages 13 to 17 -- nieces and nephews), the mothers in our family are quite different than in my husband's in that all of us take watching children as a serious matter and even though we have our blind spots, living in an almost completely altered reality about negligent superivsion is NOT one of the things we suffer from. I do believe if this were my immediate family I would address the issue directly even though it could cause conflict. After all, a child's very life could hang in the balance so I'd be willing to risk conflict given what is at stake. Thank you again for your insight, it's enormously helpful to know that other reasonable people view what is happening here as abnormal and that intervention would not be an over-reaction. Thank you again and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Katherine - posted on 11/22/2011

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Yes, I would pretty much say that's neglect. But how do you tactfully tell a parent they are being neglectful of their child?
I would say something along the lines of what you already said about the party.
It's not your job to babysit someone else's kid. And if she is going to continue I would document and call child protective services. This is no joke, this child could be killed.
I understand the single mom thing, but so am I. I also have a 2.5 year old and I would NEVER let her run free like that. Then again I'm not exactly a free range parent. Kids that age need supervision and a lot of it.
It's up to you whether or not to take it further (CPS) but I would definitely do SOMETHING.

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