Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Portrait of Parental Neglect

Hopefully, this is an anomaly. Hopefully, this family does not represent the way children are brought up in America today. 

Astonishingly, the letter writer, the oldest of three siblings, had grown up in a disorganized, chaotic household, where absent parents neglected their children. Largely neglected the children’s most basic needs. It wasn't just that there weren't family dinners. Often enough children were not fed at all. 

These parents sacrificed their children’s lives to their careers. And to their need to have some fun. Throughout the time that oldest sibling was at home, he never recognized that the situation was abnormal. I am calling the letter writer a “he” because we do not know its gender.

We should question the fact that the oldest sibling did not see anything wrong with his upbringing while he was living at home. Didn’t he have any friends? Didn’t he ever have any sleepovers or play dates? Didn’t he have an opportunity to see how other families lived? Did any neighbors or other family members know what was going on?

How does it happen that it falls on him to call out his parents for their monstrous neglect?

And we wonder how well he himself has turned out. Does he suffer from emotional problems himself? Has he been consulting with college mental health professionals? Did they tell him that there was something radically wrong with the way he was brought up?

He writes to Carolyn Hax:

Since going away to college, I've realized that the way I was raised wasn't normal. We often had nothing to eat, were ignored by my parents and lived in a messy, chaotic home. They're both gone about 12 hours a day for work. They make decent money but spend most of it on their phones, cigarettes and booze. They both might be functional alcoholics.

I'm back in school, but my brother and sister, 13 and 12, are stuck in that situation. When I was home on break, I made sure they had good food to eat and got some attention from me. When I tried to talk to my parents about this, they got angry and told me that between bills, work, commuting, yardwork — they do enough not to get fined — life is hard and they need their distractions.

But there's no reason for my sister and brother to have to make one box of cereal stretch for a week of breakfasts and lunches and then try to show up at a friend's house at dinnertime hoping they'll get fed. I don't want to risk their ending up in a foster home, where they'll probably be worse off, but I hate knowing how neglected they are. What can I do? Should I report my own parents?

— Neglected

As for what he should do, at the least he should do something. Perhaps a word or two with the siblings would be a good place to start. Perhaps there are other family members who are in a position to intervene. Perhaps he should put in a call to school administrators. Someone needs to have a talk with the parents. And it would clearly be better to find this type of intervention before calling in Child Protective Services.


Dan Patterson said...

Talk? No.
Shaken by the collar until their teeth are loose.
Such neglect and self-centered destruction are not reasonable nor logical and cannot be corrected with calm and reasoned "talk". Too late for that.
Intervention and removal of the minor children from the house, preferably by other than government.
Good on the eldest for noting the disease, at least. He could taken them in himself and do school in an alternate form.

Linda Fox said...

I hate to break it to you, but the school administrators are mandatory reporters - they HAVE to notify social services.

A better plan might be to get the parents to authorize an account at a local store that has online ordering and delivery, and have the kids take some charge of their own food situation. No, it's not as good as getting the parents to step up, but it could eliminate a major part of the problem. Foster care would likely NOT be better, and may very well be worse.