Dealing with family who doesn't care for their kids

Mr. & Mrs. X (my husband’s brother and his wife) don’t have their life in order. They are constantly making bad decisions, but appear happy with their lives. When others in the family have tried to say anything it has fallen on deaf ears. They are young and they have 5 children (ranging from 7 years old to the newest baby). Everyone in my husband’s immediate family feels stressed and concerned about them; often angry and/or frustrated. The only exception is my husband’s other brother who has an “It’s his life” attitude. The main problem we all have with Mr. & Mrs. X is how their behavior affects their little children. My husband and I are Godparents to one of their children, as are others in the family.
Some people feel Mr. & Mrs. X’s parents are enabling them. Because of this I’m torn between being very helpful in befriending this couple, and not doing anything out of fear enabling.
There are pretty serious things going on. Mr. X goes from job to job frequently, often leaving gaps in pay. Even when he is working consistently, they mismanage their money and sometimes don’t have money for necessities like food and heat in their home for the winter. Mrs. X comes from a family that, for lack of better description, just isn’t too bright. I think she doesn’t KNOW any better. However, Mr. X leaves most of the child rearing to her and she does not meet her children’s basic hygiene needs. I feel confident saying Mr. and Mrs. X do not meet their children’s physical needs- which is a requirement of parents according to our faith. Her children always have bleeding diaper rashes. I cried the last time I changed one of her children’s diapers. I know it is because she does not change her children’s diapers. You can smell the poopy diapers the moment the children walk in the door and when you tell Mrs. X the children need to be changed she will make a comment like “I’m not going to waste a diaper” or “I’ll do it later” (then never does). I even offer to change diapers for her when I can, but she says she will do it herself. Her children are always dirty, their hair ratty. Mrs. X lacks common sense and cannot take a hint. You have to be very direct with her, but I feel “mean” doing this. I also feel mean watching the children suffer. We found out the children now have lice, and one was playing with a dead mouse inside of their house (their house is another story altogether). CPS has been called on them before from someone. I know most of this information first hand, or from comments from others made in our presence.
I don’t know what to say to them or how to help them, or if it’s my place. Others in the family wish someone would say something but no one wants to be the one to do it. In the past the family has talked to them about being irresponsible, especially in regards to money, but never about the parenting which is honestly by biggest concern. We consulted our priest about them awhile back and his advice was asking if they would be receptive to correcting. This was about being irresponsible and not the parenting. At the time, we decided they would not be open to what we have to say and didn’t say anything. There have been new developments since then and I’m feeling frustrated about their situation again. I always pray for them. I feel like if we had to say something to them it would have to be a very direct, blunt conversation and it would be awkward to have that kind of conversation; not to mention it is only natural to expect them to be defensive.
I’m feeling inclined to say something since I feel they are being inconsiderate to others in the family by exposing them to health risks. This past week their whole family was badly ill and had lice and visited with the family, including other babies and my husband’s elderly parents. These people have vulnerable immune systems and now our family, and at least one other family, has gotten ill because of it. This has happened several times. Not to mention dragging their children out who are crying, sick, and unhappy the whole time because they don’t feel good. I worry for the health of my husband’s parents especially since they are elderly and it’s harder for them to recover from illnesses at their age. And everyone is susceptible to lice, and it is easily passed from person to person. Both my MIL and FIL and one of my husband’s sisters commented on taking extra vitamins after being around the family so they don’t get sick. My other SIL has stopped letting her children babysit for Mr. and Mrs. X or letting her younger children go over for sleepovers because she doesn’t feel the house is safe/clean enough for her children to be in. I also realize that caring for 5 young children is no easy task (I have two young children) but you also have to be responsible parents.
I honestly want the best for this couple and especially their children. These people do have good qualities that I try to focus on, but it is so hard with so many things going wrong in their life. I have thought about inviting Mrs. X and the kids over for playdates and trying to set a good example with the child rearing but now with the lice scare (and the children getting sick literally every time we are around these people) I’m hesitant to be around them any more than I have to be.

If this were you, what would you say or do? Nothing? Just pray? Do we have an obligation to our godchild? We are also worried about causing more of a rift in the family (long story- one already exists). It literally keeps me awake at night when I hear or see some of the things going on. I want to handle myself correctly and do things with love and charity and not with anger or hatred. Am I handling this situation wrong in any way? Is a call to CPS warranted or a better option? Others in the family have thought about it before. Please help.

The time for talking is over. Call CPS, and get everyone else who knows about this situation to call too. And keep calling until something is done.

Call CPS. Yesterday. I think you can report anonymously, as well. Document anything you see (time, date, etc) and call again as needed, until there is intervention.

Don’t let feeling bad for getting the parents “in trouble,” feel bad for the kids who need appropriate care.

Thank you for coming here and taking the time to share such a painful story.

I cannot say I have been in your shoes exactly, however I lived through a very similiar situation. My nieces and nephews were dirty, uncared for, the house was filthy, there was often a lack of good food and come to find out many years later the situation was more dire then I ever imagined. They lived somewhat of a distance away and I felt so helpless. Many nights I cried and prayed, wondering what I could possibly do.

First of all, you are being a great aunt! You have a great big heart and what a blessing you are to care so very much! Your goal is, and should continue to be: being the best aunt you can possibly be while keeping your own children healthy and safe.

There really is nothing you can say that would make much of a difference to their parents but you already know that. There are no “magic words” you can say to your brother and sister-in-law that are going to make them suddenly gasp and say “Wow, I never thought of it that way, I am going to change my life and be responsible and take better care of my children thank you for the advice!”

Your goal is to be a good aunt. When you see the children show them love, make an effort to call them on the phone to chat, send them little cards in the mail to make them feel special! I talked with a social worker years ago when concerned for my own nieces and nephews and I felt my efforts were a waste of time and had little impact. She assured me that when children grow up in difficult situations…SO OFTEN it is the love and reassurance of just one other person that has such a positive impact on their lives!

Bottom line you cannot change their lives, however you can be a great aunt. Hopefully they will remember your love and in the meantime keep praying. Jesus loves these little children so much and they have their guardian angels too, our Blessed Mother is also watching over them. That being said I would not hesitate to call child protective services in a heartbeat! From experience just so you know sometimes it can take more then one call to produce results. Keep calling. Also, if you decide to call child protective services keep it to yourself…this is nothing that need be broadcast to other family members. You would risk them finding out and they might distance themselves from you which would lessen any positive influence you would have with the children. I wish I had more to offer you, please take care and be assured of my prayers.

This…It’s one thing if it was just the couple living this way…but there are children involved and that is not okay.

Who cares how the adults feel…there are children whose lives are at stake here.

Call CPS as often as you can until there is an intervention and the kids are either removed or they fix their problems.

Call Social Services. Report the lice, severe diaper rashes, and lack of food, and your concerns with the parents mental ability. You may remain anonomous to your family. They will assign a worker to work with the family on health issues.

In Nevada they don’t remove children from the home unless they are in immenant danger of death. I have seen familes be offered financial counseling, lessons on how to clean homes, and children, how to delouse, and parenting classes. They also offer marriage counseling, help with food, and medicines.

It sounds obvious they need this help. Please call today! :thumbsup:

Also remember that after calling CPS so many times and their efforts are unproductive to produce change in the situation the children could be taken from the home and be put in foster care; so I hope someone in the family is ready to care for the children should it come to that extreme.

This is child neglect. As others have stated call CPS immediately. You can remain anonymous. They are probably also neglecting their children’s medical and dental needs.

Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. This has gone on far too long. The needs of the children are more important than their parents.

Heed the following advice, particularly the words in bold:

Furthermore, I urge you and your husband to create a plan of action in the event your nieces and nephews are withdrawn from their parents’ care. The family must be united and have its primary interests in the children.

I know someone who actually called CPS on their relative for various issues. It turned out to be a great thing, and the children are much better cared for now (they were never removed from the home). Please do so ASAP.

Once an anonymous call is placed to CPS things are in their hands and you must be prepared that their investigation may find them to be unfit parents if things are that bad.
It’s something to think about and again, have an alternate plan.
I worked in a school and I have seen CPS in action. It’s now always a happy ending whereby there are tons of services available to a family struggling and a family is split up in foster care.
I wish it wasn’t so but CPS is very powerful in their ability to remove children from the home
foster them until the family “can improve their ability to be parents with the HOPE of reunifications”…
if after so many attempts which it seems the family has tried to do subtly and not so subtly
What can CPS do that you as a family can’t do?
Offer services on parenting, health care, dental care, etc …hopefully it will be enough
but the lives of the children will be then in the hands of CPS and it isn’t always a great outcome.
Ask a social worker.

Thanks for all the responses thus far. I’m actually a little surprised so many think CPS should be involved. I think my husband doesn’t understand how bad it is and he makes me think about how many have it worse- I forget how bad it is. I want to make sure this couple is represented accurately. I just want to add that MIL and FIL step in when it gets to the point of heat being shut off/needing food for kids. Although, I don’t think the children get enough to eat, but that is speculation. The couple of times I’ve baby-sat, the kids are always ravenous and spend a good amount of time eating, which gives me suspicion. I usually ask when they ate last and one time I recall they hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was late in the afternoon (3/4 pm). But to be fair that isn’t unheard of with kids sometimes. A couple of these things (mouse incidence) is hear-say- things I didn’t witness first-hand. Will CPS consider these things? I have to think long and hard about calling CPS. I have to be ready to take these children in if need be, and I don’t know if I’m ready for that or if it’s the right call. But everyone is right…words won’t help these people, and deep down I know it. I will have to pray for guidance. I also would want to keep it private…not even tell my husband. But I’m not sure if I could keep it from him. I’m not sure he would be happy with me calling CPS. :confused:

Dear Dasi4747,

Obviously this is a struggle for you as clearly you are hesitant about calling Child Protective Services. Let’s start with what you know and eliminate heresay so you are confident: the children had bad diaper rash as a result of not being changed regularly which you saw and your sister-in-law admitted to. This alone is child neglect. You don’t have to beat your children senseless to have Child Protection called, having children suffer medically to the point where they have an infection around their buttox and private area is reason enough. Especially when it is habitual (not a one time accident.)

Also you mentioned being prepared to take in these children, but make sure to think long and pray hard about this. If you feel that God is calling you to do that, well that is one thing. However your primary consideration is your own family and your own children. If you do decide to take in these children make sure it is a decision made with your mind and your intellect rather then one made purely out of your heart and of guilt because it is a huge decision.

You might want to call Child Protection and just ask them flat out for advice. Ask them if what you have seen is enough for a report. Ask them what their criteria is because you are concerned about a family but don’t want to make a false report. Hopefully someone there will be able to ask you questions and guide you. God bless you.

You have to remember - this is how they present themselves to you - imagine how they treat their children when no one is around?

Even if the children are not removed these people sound like the type that should have someone in authority tell them how to care to care for their children with frequent visits. If nothing else they can set them up with donated diapers and food.

Yes, I agree, call CPS. No child should have to live in poopy diapers and no child should have an ongoing bleeding diaper rash. And no child needs to suffer with lice and pass them on to relatives.
These parents need to be taught how to take care of their children and how to manage their money and they need to learn to step up and be responsible for children. CPS can help with all of this.
And I do not say this lightly, I am all for keeping the government out of your life if at all possible, but in this case, I think it’s the best choice to get CPS involved.

I’m curious though, you said there was a 7 year old, how is this child going to school and the school is not seeing this child as dirty and not well cared for?

I’ve never been in this situation and I don’t fully know what your own family situation, nor do I know if this other family would welcome help, but I’d offer to help them if I could. Her comment about “not wanting to waste a diaper” would have me thinking they couldn’t afford diapers, so I’d take them a large box of disposable diapers, wipes and diaper ointment.

I’d be scared about the head lice too, especially for my own kids sake. I recently saw a product line called “Ladybug” for head lice and it includes a spray for prevention as well as several products for lice removal. I haven’t used it, but I was tempted to buy the preventative spray just because I find lice creepy. I’d put something like that on my own kids when these family members were around and talk to my children about how to avoid head lice. I’d also buy some lice removal products for that family. I might offer to give their kids haircuts, (I’d sterilize the scissors carefully–maybe even giving it to the mom because I might not want it back.) I’d be very careful about the lice and do whatever I could to help them get rid of it. Yucky. I’m getting itchy as I type.

Others have given you advice to call CPS. I would try to help this family and see how they respond first. I believe it’s better for all involved if this family simply learns to take care of their own children, and they seem to need more than the average amount of teaching to learn that. If it’s your husband’s brother’s family, I’d ask your husband to step in a talk to his brother if the mother wasn’t receptive to these offers of help. (Delegating all the child care to his wife when she’s not taking care of them doesn’t get him off the hook!) I’d also investigate and make sure they were aware of food stamps and various government assistance programs available for people in poverty so that they kids didn’t go hungry. If they needed help planning affordable meals, I’d offer some suggestions to help with that too. If the diapers I provided went unused and the rash continued, or if they flatly refused any offers of help to clean up the kids, etc., then I’d consider contacting CPS, but that wouldn’t be my first resort.

I’d also watch for signs of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, mental illness or depression, etc. in the mother and/or father. They may need additional assistance with problems like those.

And I’d pray for the entire family and for this situation.

The advice everyone is giving is good.Do you have a cell phone with a camera?I say this as maybe you can take photos of the diaper rash or other things at their home.Maybe they aren’t aware of what services are available to help them. hopefully CPS can help those poor children.Has anyone else in the family offered to take the little ones in if need be? Please keep us posted.

Generally speaking, CPS has the goal of making home situations better, not removing kids from parents who want to do what is right. They do a lot of education, and they take on the job of holding parents accountable until the parents are in the habit of holding themselves accountable.

If I were one of the children in the home, I’d want someone to step in and wake up my parents, so I wouldn’t suffer neglect and so my parents could realize what they need to do in order to be good parents. That is why CPS exists, because sometimes vulnerable children need to be given a voice with their own parents.

Keep in touch with the parents. They may need to make big changes in the condition of their home in order to satisfy CPS, a job which they will probably find overwhelming. If someone else lets them know that changes have to be made by a deadline, they could see any family member who steps in to help cheerfully, with encouragement, and without putting them down as a godsend.

After that, you might be able to help them by suggesting a book like “Side-Tracked Home Executives” or “Sink Reflections.” These and many other books have been written by the hopelessly disorganized for like-minded souls, i.e., people who were not born thinking about keeping a home in order.

Mostly, though, reiterate with the parents that not knowing how to keep things in order doesn’t make them bad people, and that there are lots of books out there written by people who had the same problems and found ways to get routines in place to help them stay on top of the work of keeping a home running. Reiterate that they have been welcoming to their wonderful children, reiterate that their children love them, reiterate that they obviously care about their kids. Encourage, encourage, encourage, because they may literally be “dis-couraged” when it comes to the work that is ahead of them. Be on their side, and encourage the rest of the family to have the same attitude.

No! I know you mean well with this advice but DO NOT ever take photos of someone else’s child’s diaper rash. It involves taking pictures of a child’s private parts. Even with the best of intentions, photos like that could get the photographer and anyone who possessed the images in serious trouble.

I would be furious with any family member who dared to take pictures of my child’s privates! Good parents would be outraged and might cut off all contact with anyone who would do such a thing. It won’t help the children if the mom or dad press charges against the aunt.

Amen, I was thinking the same exact thing.

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