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Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Suspected Case of Child Neglect/Abuse
My husband`s 18-year-old niece had a baby last year. Since then, my mother-in-law has pretty much raised the baby (the biological parents only want the baby when it is "convenient" for them, & the baby has a stronger bond with my mother-in-law than with her parents; my mother-in-law also raised the baby`s mother). If she refuses to not take care of the baby, they threaten to keep the baby from her (she has the kid 24/7, pretty much). She has told us that the baby is dirty when she picks her up (dirty clothes/diapers, not fed -the parents pretty much ignore her). Also, she has told us that the father has thrown things at the mother when he is mad, but I don`t know if the baby was there at the time(s). I have heard my mother-in-law badmouth the biological parents in front of the baby, & she even told her she would love to be her mommy. I do not have any proof, & I know everyone will say my suspicions are wrong. My husband & mother-in-law don`t want to do anything about this, as they are afraid the baby will be taken away, & they will never see her again, but I believe the baby`s well-being & safety come first. She even has a stronger bond with the baby than the parents do. Should I report my suspicions; if so, to who? Please help.
The concerns that you outlined in you email are worrisome. You are describing potential emotional and environmental neglect issues. In addition, you mention an incidence of domestic violence between the baby`s mother and father. Domestic violence increases a child`s risk of becoming victims of child physical abuse.
It seems that your mother-in-law is in the best position to report concerns about the child`s well-being to the local child protection authorities, but if she is unwilling to do so, you too can report your concerns, anonymously or not.
The legally mandated agency to assess the risk to the baby is the Children`s Services Department in the County in which the baby lives. You should be able to find the number easily. An intake worker will listen to your concerns and decide if there is a need to open an investigation. The agency can keep your identity anonymous if you wish.
If they do open a case, it does not automatically mean that the baby will be removed from her family. Children`s Services typically want to keep families unified and if they can achieve that through different support services, they will proceed with that action first. They only remove children when it is obvious that the child is in an unsafe environment.
Thanks for your concern
Karen Farst, MD
Clinical Fellow in Child Abuse
Robert Shapiro, MD
Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati