Thursday, September 27, 2007

What should Ranty DO?????????



Dear Readers:

Have you ever known a family with problems?

No, I don't mean that family where the one kid rebelled, coloring his hair black and piercing everything before heading off to college, nor even the family where the daughter got pregnant at 16 and the dad collected uneployment and drank too much, and everyone on the block talked about them behind their backs...

I mean a family for whom you actually felt afraid.

I guess maybe the question should be re-phrased... have you ever known a family about which you felt extreme concern and considered DOING something about?

Okay wait - here's a third way to put it:

When do you go beyond "tsk-ing" at other peoples' problems and actually intervene in some measureable way, even if it means calling the police, child protection, or something else?

Yeah, I know, you have no idea what I'm talking about...

So, I'll tell you a little story and maybe you can help me figure out what to do, if anything.



The matriarch is Grandma. Grandma is always very nice to me. We talk a few times a week, mostly when I visit her at her home. (No she's not my tenant, I just know her.)

When I met Grandma, she had four grandchildren in her household: two boys and two girls. The eldest boy, who I'll call "William" is near 18, and like a father to the younger kids. He's without a doubt the most thoughtful, responsible person in the household. He likes to work on cars, and developed a sort of (masculine) crush on the Good Scientist very early on, since they share this interest.

The younger boy, who I'll call "Rob," is an asshole. It's probably part due to his age, which I'd put at about 13. He's barely ever around, and when he is, he's incredibly rude to his family, and embodies the gangbanger stereotype, not only in costume but in mannerisms, including a propensity to shout profanities and racial slurs at his "friends," no matter who's around to hear.

The two smallest children are the girls. They are 6 and 4. (I'll just call them "the girls" because I can't think of any good pseudonyms for them.) They are sweet, curious children, but developmentally behind. (The 6-year-old completed kindergarten last year, but still cannot sing the A-B-C song. The 4-year-old speaks like a 2-year-old.)

There is one other on-again-off-again member of this household, and she is Grandma's daughter, as well as mother of the two girls. (Let's call her Yasmin.)


Grandma doesn't work, because she's caring for the children. She spends most of her day drinking and talking on the phone to people about what stuff is costing her and how she doesn't have enough money.

William goes to high school, and spends his time afterwards working on cars and watching out for the little girls. He tries to watch out for Rob too, but they usually just end up arguing and Rob stomps off to hang out with his friends.

Yasmin is usally out of the picture, since she spends most of her time in jail for crack. Every now and then, however, she gets out... and shit gets WAY worse...

... like recently. Here's what happened:

Yasmin came home from jail last spring.

Her two little girls were so elated!!! They wanted to spend every minute hugging her and playing with her... but Yasmin had other things on her mind, it seems. She proceeded to spend the next couple of months either a) holed up in her room, (was she smoking??? I don't know!) or b) out with male friends. She never got a job, and didn't do much of anything for the kids.

Rob remained gone most of the time.

William moved up north for the summer to work on cars at his uncle's place.

The little girls languished without interaction, as Grandma sat on the phone with her booze, and mom was like a ghost - not really there, even when she was there.

On my regular visits to their home, I often found the girls lounging on the dirt yard, playing with such inappropriate items as: toxic markers; a staple gun; and handfuls of raw ground meat. They were often in various states of undress.

The summer waned on, and in spite of my fumbling attempts to assist the family in procuring summer care for (at least) the girls, nothing really changed.

Recently, things got even worse.

I noticed that Yasmin disappeared. I assumed she was back in jail, and Grandma confirmed this in our most recent conversation. While this alone would not surprise me now, the accompanying tale she told me DID:

Grandma said that Yasmin had gotten picked up on a warrant, (For what this time - I didn't ask) and that she was ordered to the workhouse for 36 days. Grandma pleaded with the appropriate powers to let Yasmin turn herself in a week later, because that was when William was coming back from up north, and could help take over for Yasmin in helping Grandma with Rob and the girls.

That request was granted.

William's return overlapped by a day or so with Yasmin's scheduled departure.

They got into a fight.

Yasmin threw one of the two pots of boiling water (which Grandma keeps on the stove for humidity) at William and burned him. When she reached for the second pot, William threw himself at her and held her tightly, arms at her sides. (As Grandma recounts, anyway.)

Yasmin started screaming, struggled free, and proceeded to call the police, alleging attempted strangulation. When the police arrived, Yasmin (again, according to Grandma,) feigned injury, moaning and groaning and pinching her neck to show how William had tried to kill her.

William was subsequently picked up, brought to juvenile detention, and tried on assault charges.

Yasmin reiterated her story before the judge, while Grandma testified to the contrary.

William was sent to a local detention camp for 12 months. (And then Yasmin missed her turn-in date and got almost another year herself.)


As I stood there the other day with Grandma, listening to this story, I couldn't help but ponder the veracity of her words. The truth is that I don't know what to believe, from any of these guys. I have caught the girls lying to me on a number of ocassions, and I know that it's a learned behavior. I am filled with doubt and uncertainty whenever I talk to any of them...

But there I was, frozen, listening to Grandma, watching as the tears filled her eyes and slowly began to spill over. She kept talking, feverishly, as they dripped from her chin, staining her rumpled shirt. I listened dumbly... numbly... encapsulated in the sad halo of her alcohol-breath, unable to form a thought apart from discomfort at the expanding gassy-bubble of hatred ascending from my gut, on whose surface was the face... of Yasmin.

It was then, as I stood there fighting my discomfort, that Grandma produced the sickening *cherry, brilliant in it's horrifying simplicity, atop this veritable sundae of disfunction:

She said to me: (and I paraphrase)

Yeah, and that's why all them cars been comin' up in here, I know you seen 'em and you don't approve, and I'm gonna stop, cuz you know I know it's bad for me with my asthma, but I just can't handle all a this, and I need me some weed an that stuff too, you know... to relax myself.



Should I do anything???? Say anything???? To anybody or nobody??? And if yes, what??? To whom???


I'm getting an ulcer thinking about all of this - especially those little girls.

*Bad sundae metaphor idea stolen from Jeremy at Afterglide.


Margaret said...

I think you have the right idea, starting with the little girls. Grandma, as nice a lady as she may be can't cope. I feel bad for William. He has a skill and unfortunately now he has an adult record (you said he was 18). The girls are either going to become criminals or victims eventually. I don't know the appropriate child services authority to call or even if they will be able to do anything, but if I were you, I would look into doing it.

Rich G. said...

It's rare that I'll give advice in such vehement terms, Hennepin County Child Protective Services RIGHT FREAKING NOW.

Oy, cycle of poverty to the Nth degree.

Paul said...

You have to call someone. Those kids need some help, and it sounds like you may be one of the only adults willing/able to give it to them.

From the MN Dept. of Human Services website: "To report suspected child abuse or neglect, contact your county social service agency or the police." I really think you need to call the local social service agency. True, they may not be able to do much to help the kids, but you have to try. Could you live with yourself if you didn't? said...

Yes, absolutely say something. It's bad enough when adults hurt themselves - but the adults are hurting the children and could hurt others as well. We have a charity in NYC called "Hour Children" that supports children who's Mothers are in prison and then rehabilitates the Moms when they get out. Contact them and ask them for suggestions, they may be able to put you in contact with someone more local to your area. Here's the URL, they are an amazing charity:

Kassie said...

You could call child protection, but it is very doubtful that they would do anything. They would go out to the house, because they would have to, but they probably wouldn't do anything after that. As long as the kids are fed, going to school, and not abused, there is nothing Social Services can do. And there is no guarantee that a foster home would be any better. It most likely would be the same scene. There are really good foster parents out there, but not very many of them.

You could call the police when you see the cars pulling up to sell her drugs. But, she would only get a citation, if anything, if she is only smoking weed. If there are other drugs involved, she may be taken to jail, but then the little girls would be in the foster system.

You could work with Grandma to see if the girls are developmentally disabled. If they get tested, and they are, the younger one can get all day schooling for free and the older one may get additional help at school. This may be very helpful, but Grandma would have to cooperate, and they would have to be actually DD.

Maybe you could help the older girl get hooked up with good activities. She could use a Big Sister, it sounds like, and maybe the Girl Scouts or Campfire Girls would be good too. Anything to get her out of the house and learning stuff. When Grandma realizes this stuff is free (you can get scholorships easily) and the girl is gone more, she will probably go along.

Otherwise, not much else you can do. I'd say trying to be a mentor to the girls or helping them find good adult role models is the best that can happen. The system sucks, but mostly because there are a lot WORSE women out there with kids than this grandma.

Contact me if you want Child Protection's phone number.

Ang said...

Raw meat? Yeah, I'd probably report this. Grandma can't seem to handle it, mom is utterly worthless as a human and as a parent and thanks to this waste of space, the last hope those little girls had will be going away to juve for the next year.

What's going to happen when Grandma drops dead (that's so inevitable with the drugs, asthma and stress) and nobody is around to take care of the girls?

Ranty said...

Thank you guys so much for all of your comments - I really appreciate it!

I guess my hesitation was based upon what Kassie pointed out - if the girls have food, clothes, and go to school, it's unlikely that social services will do anything. Also, while I'm no Ed specialist, I don't think that the girls are technically developmentally disabled. I think they are BEHIND due to lack of stimulating interaction with others.

I'm so frustrated because I tried to get Grandma to put them in this free summer program, (which included transport) and even printed out the application and gave it to her. Nothing happened though. I feel like the same would result if I tried any other program or service that requires her to do anything - even sign her name.

So that's why I thought of calling someone who would come to them...

Also, what's weird is that I think they already should be in the social services loop, (both boys have now been in juvy, Grandma gets welfare and section 8, and had custody of the kids transferred to her after mom went to jail) but they don't have any social worker visiting them or anything...

But I will make some calls. I can't keep watching this stuff, and it goes way beyond my untrained-capacity as a mere "friend to Grandma."

Kassie said...

Just because she is on welfare or Section 8 does not mean they get any additional Social Services. She is probably exempt from the work requirement due to age, so the welfare department will completely lay off. They don't care.

Since she is probably technically a foster mother of the children, they would have a home visit once or twice a year. I'm thinking that it is announced ahead of time. So, social services is involved that way, but it isn't hard to sober up for one day.

I don't know what to do. It is a really hard place to be: ouside helpless observer. I don't envy your position. You can't make people help themselves, you can only offer options.

Margaret said...

I think they qualify as "at risk" even if the have the basics because of all the family members in the criminal justice system. It may be as Kassie said, they have a social worker who doesn't have a clue about what's going on because they have only visited the house a few times on a prescheduled basis. If they have a social worker and you are able to locate them, you'd at least be able to get them to fill out some more notes on the case file and maybe spur a stepped up schedule or unscheduled visit.

There was a family who lived across the street from us up until a year ago who obviously had an at risk designation because social workers were over there at least once a month. I never knew what the story was but they were certainly watching them. So it is done, maybe someone else with more knowlege of the system could tell you more.

Honduras Sprout said...

I just want to say ~ bless you for caring!

It must be a hard thing to know/see/feel.

I'd make a phone call and at least ask what the options are and how situations like this are handled.

Aaron Ortiz said...

I would try to stay in the granmother's circle of trust, while silently alerting the authorities about the situation, for the good of the children. You can't coerce an adult, you can only offer your support, and if they will take it, your counsel.