Neighbor verbally abusing child

I am posting on behalf of a friend who does not have children, who is very disturbed by the neighbor's actions and is looking for advice on how to handle the situation.  My friend did ask the police dept for guidance and was told they would knock on the door if called but basically felt my friend was overreacting. 

"About four years ago my immediate neighbors adopted a girl who later received cochlear implants.  She also perhaps has some other minor cognitive/emotional challenges.  About a year ago the parents split up and are sharing custody of the child.   The parent who moved out is the more stable of the two IMO, the remaining neighbor seems to have a problem with alcohol and possibly other drugs.   My neighbor has gotten a housemate/girlfriend who is helping pay the bills. (I presume.) This morning at about 10:00 the housemate started screaming at the child, "Get out of my room you f*****g b***h!"  I could hear the daughter running through the house screaming.  This was followed by, "Get in here and clean this up!  There's something wrong with you!"  This was accompanied by more screaming from the child.  (The child was not screaming for help, just screaming.)  The child ran outside and then went back in the house.  The child is about nine years old.  After several minutes, the house calmed down. I initially assumed that the mother (there are two moms) was in the house.  I think that I was wrong about that and that neither parent was in the house.  There has been at least one similar instance in the past.   I continue to have a good relationship with the mom who moved; the mom who remains my neighbor has been very difficult this past year.   I would appreciate any guidance on how to help this child.  Should I tell the landlords about the situation?  Should I write to both moms and express my concerns?  PD was unconcerned and CPS seems off the table.  It was horrible hearing the screaming, I can only imagine how damaging this is to the child.  Thanks for any help."

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

Please talk to the parent you are closer with and share your concerns. Please also consider talking to the neighbor parent even if you are not close. Document the instances you observe in case it does escalate and you feel CPS or the police should be involved. CPS is separate from PD so they may be worth involving to investigate since this is their domain. But I'd consider speaking directly to both parents first. 

Thank you for thinking of this child. It's a hard situation to sort from one incident. If it were 2 or more instances of inappropriate language and screaming, I'd send notes to both mom's, expressing great concern. It sounds like it may have been the roommate who was threatening and loud? If I were a parent, I'd want to know. 

If you feel (she feels) the child is in danger, the correct response is to make a call to the Child Abuse Hotline, and let them sort it out. (510) 259-1800  You can call anonymously if desired. If the child was actually left at home with no parental supervision, they will take the call seriously - but again, let them sort it out (verbal abuse, child screaming, left alone, etc)

I wish I could offer professional advice or guidance but as just another parent with opinions and compassion, I wonder: is there room in your life to form a relationship with the child? Your concern has value and children need lots of positive inputs from different places. If you have the time/resources/inclination it really does take a village and just another present adult/positive role model could be helpful, even in a limited role as a neighbor friend to the child.

Tell your friend to call the CPS hotline, that is definitely verbal abuse and police are unsurprisingly uninterested if no physical violence or dangerous neglect. Your friend can just google child welfare hotline + their county, some CPS counties allow you to consult which is describing the situation before making a report. All reporting is anonymous

If your friend feels there is potentially an abuse situation happening next door they should report it to CPS. CPS will decide whether or not to investigate it. Calling the police because of you’ve potentially overheard verbal abuse without witnessing anything is probably not the right move, but there’s no reason to not call CPS. CPS wouldn’t tell anyone who made the call if they choose to investigate. If this sort of thing happens repeatedly it’s helpful for them to have a paper trail to go back to if they decide to remove the child or even pay a home visit.

I do think writing both moms to express her concerns is the best start, especially if she can do it with an empathetic tone...caring for special needs children is not easy and it sounds like the housemate may have some trauma in their own upbringing, which makes it even more difficult to be put into a situation like this. She should also be keeping a written record of these incidents with dates.

I don't see any reason to call the landlord at this time. Adding a threat of housing scarcity won't help them.

If the police become involved in an incident involving a child, it seems likely that reports to CPS will be involved. So, I am not sure about the thinking of CPS being "off the table"? if there is abuse or neglect, that is really the official way to report this situation. In an ideal world, it would be a way of bringing in support for this family. I don't think it is a good first step, but the way that CPS tends to work is that they build a file...severe reports or multiple reports are what will lead to a case being investigated.

The police and CPS are not going to care until that child is dead or near dead, seriously. The state is never going to protect the most vulnerable among us, including children.

If I were your friend, I would tell the safe parent immediately. Do not engage with the abusive parent because anything you tell them will only jeapordize the child further. I am an abuse survivor from childhood and a domestic abuse survivor as an adult. I have fought tooth and nail to protect my child from his abusive parent. Family court and CPS have done nothing. 

We have to protect the babies. We are all they have. Best wishes

I would contact CPS, even if they’ve declined the case in the past. Multiple reports can start to show evidence of a pattern of abuse. I would also speak to the mother who does not live in the home since you have maintained good contact with her. I would definitely want to know if someone were treating my child that way.

I'd let the other parent know right away. I'd want to know if my kid was in that situation. And if you don't think the other parent was home, I'd tell them how their friends are treating their kid. If you still hear things or if they're getting worse and the other parent doesn't intervene, I'd call child protective services. But I'd give the parents the chance to correct first before calling CPS. 

If the question-asker still has a good relationship with the parent that moved out, and who seems to still have partial custody, I think they should directly talk to that parent. If it were me, I would hope my old neighbor would tell me what was going on with my kid before calling the police. 

Write to both moms explaining what you saw and heard, that way both moms are on notice with the same information that this roommate did this and there is a written record for the moms to use if needed.  Frame it as "I saw this and I wanted you both to be aware of it, because I believe neither of you were there to witness it and I am concerned about your daughter"

If there is already a neighborly connection, when things are calm, maybe approach the nieghbor and casually ask how things are going, offering to maybe give the Mother a break if she is stressed out. Maybe even comment innocently that you heard the girl screaming and were concerned, hoping all is ok. Sometimes, making these connections can let the parent know that they've got some support, even if it is for a 10 minutes time out for the parent themself.Perhaps the Mother-neighorbor isn't aware of how her housemate treats and talks to the girl. And if you can connect with the Mother who moved out, you should definitely let her know. She should be able to work on custody issues  if needed and may not be aware of of the ongoing situation for her daughter. 

CPS should not be off the table. If you truly are worried about the child's welfare, And know that just because you call doesn't mean that they will do an assessment. They will review your concerns and determine the next step but you will have potentially helped by getting the process started to help this girl's life. CPS is not an automatic removal from the home as many fear (although there are true horror stories.)A good CPS system can go in, assess the home, and often provide much needed connections to social supports that can help everyone involved. If drugs are involved, this is dangerous for the child's welfare. Supports for the Mother could be offered.

I would contact the other mom and tell her factually what I saw & heard.

Not sure why CPS is "off the table" but that would be another possibility.

I think you should contact the landlord, only, and don't attempt to say anything to the mother that still resides there.  

If you think the mother that moved out, is more stable, then perhaps, you should address concerns with her, but be very specific.  

OTher than that, you should stay out of it. 

Please have your friend report this to CPS. Even though it’s hard to know what’s going on if you can’t see it, this child is especially vulnerable having been adopted and having disabilities. On its own, this situation would possibly not be investigated but the information would be kept on file for future reference if more reports come in. Also, this family may already be known to child welfare. I’m sure this is hard for your friend to overhear. She may also want to consider stopping by as a friendly neighbor. 

I don’t understand why CPS is off the table? There is clearly concerns for the child’s well-being in this current household. A landlord or the other mom may not be in a position to change anything. CPS is the only one with authority to protect this child. 

Why is CPS off the table? Don't overthink and complicate matters. Do the right thing and protect this child. Call CPS right away.