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6 YO on our estate - your advice required(9 Posts)
hi there, this is my third post this month on MN concerning same 6YO lad. We don't have children ourselves . We know this lad (and his parents who have recently separated) for several years as we live a few doors away from each other...
Tonight he was walking backwards and forwards between his mums place and his dads place (for the past 5 months, they've lived 7 houses apart and we live in between them) past our house at 9pm in his school uniform on his own. We were in the course of finishing off our dinner in the kitchen which faces the street, he can see us and rings the doorbell. I ask him is he OK, what is he doing as it is 9pm. He says he is hungry and comes in. I was trying to establish what is going on with him without it becoming a drama, I find out he is staying at his mums tonight I explain we are eating he says he is hungry and has not eaten at all. His school clothes look a bit like they've got marks on them, he's clearly not changed clothing since getting home from school. We are not sure what to do. We give him a little something to eat with us to see how hungry he is, with the intention of taking him back to the parent he is meant to be staying with tonight based on what he has told us.
He ends up at our place for a clear 45 minutes talking with us, not distressed at all or upset, eats some food. Eventually his mother comes and rings our doorbell, she can see us all sitting at the table by the window together. She is somewhat annoyed that he is saying he is hungry and eating with us and tells him off, about people thinking he is hungry. in that way that children do, when I tried to carefully establish the situation with him he had already told us in reported speech "that mum was on a diet" and that "dinner had been cancelled". I asked him if mum was busy to find out if she had sent him out to play or to establish what was going on.
I'm not a parent, I'm concerned repeatedly (see previous posts for other examples). Any insights/advice? What do we need to do? - is it time to make a call to the NSPCC? We don't think we should ignore him and leave him to his own devices but unsure how to intervene don't want to encourage him to come to our house but it was clearly late.
His mum appeared relieved but not surprised he was at our place but she had apparently communicated with the childs dad first to find out if he was there before tracking him down. This child seems to be falling between two stools at the moment.
Would welcome any advice on what to do/what not to do for future reference
I'm only a very new parent myself and don't have experience in this really either, but you're asking what people would do so I thought I'd offer my suggestion...
I'd probably try to get to understand the situation a bit better first, before getting the services involved. I'd maybe invite the mum (and son) round for supper and see what she's like with him, see if she opens up about her/the boy's situation at all. Bear in mind she could well have been under the impression that her son was happily at his dad's (and vice versa) and have no idea her son was just wandering around clearly reluctant to be at either his mum or dads place. It's good that the boy feels comfortable with you, however I'd be careful not to get too familiar in that way as you don't want to become a pawn in any potential games that get played between parents/child. Be an observer for sure, but try to keep an open mind.
If the mum is reluctant to come round for supper and consistently turns down invites, and you continue to see the child on his own and in a bit of a state then I'd call someone.
I'd start with an olive branch with the mum first though. You don't know her situation, she may be struggling as a lone parent, but also unaware that her son is unhappy/cast adrift and could use a friend/support.
That may be terrible advice, but I think that's how I'd play it.
KBabs, can you link previous threads? I'm not sure what the issue is from this one. So he was presumably at his Dad's after school, didn't change clothes, and walked back to his Mums - but on the way, saw you guys eating dinner and comes and rings the doorbell, and eats with you?
Some kids do have a habit of scavenging food from other adults even if they're being fed properly. Which is annoying for you, and his parents should be coming down on him for doing so, but his Mum did tell him not to...so if he wasn't telling you the truth, then his Mum's reaction was entirely appropriate.
And if he was at yours for 45 minutes, and she missed him, rang the Dad to check where he was and then came to yours, she's not coming over as neglectful at all - she'd have expected him to be home from his Dad's, and noticed that he was late, so rang him.
Or am I missing something major here?
I think you should have taken the boy home. You sat him in your house for 45 mins while his parents didn't know. I realise you don't have kids but its not difficult to understand that if you find a child, you make every immediate effort to reunite them with their parents.
I would have taken him straight back to his mum. It does sound very odd that a young child would be out so late but perhaps he slipped out or there was some confusion as to whether he was at his dads or not. My eldest son (ASD) would often go in to school saying that he was starving as he hadn't eaten for days. He had just had a 2 slices of toast and a bowl of cereal. The school gave him additional breakfast despite the fact that it was obvious that he was extremely well fed. So children will lie about that especially if their mum hadn't given them their preferred meal choice.
I would definitley keep a close eye on him and if it continued I would consider talking to the parents directly about your concerns and then perhaps calling social services.
You should have tried to take him home before you took him in. Of course the mother will have tried the father first if that was where he was meant to be. Mother was probably very worried after 45 minutes, so of course relieved to find him safe.
Uniform - my son never changes out of his after school and it is often grubby.
You say walking backwards and forwards. Was he actually going between their houses repeatedly or just the once? I see no problem with him walking that distance unaccompanied to get home but if it was more of a 'wandering the streets', because he couldn't get in, I'd be more concerned. At 6, he is old enough IMO to walk 7 houses along unaccompanied.
As for food, my DS will often forget having been fed or ask for another meal an hour later.
For me, there is nothing in the OP that worries me particularly, other than you taking a child in while making no attempt to contact the parents.
Although you are concerned there is an awful lot you don't know.
My DC's don't generally get changed between the end of school and bedtime- why get another set of clothes dirty and make more work? They will also eat constantly given the chance.
I wonder why you didn't take him straight home? If 9pm is late for a school night (and personally I think it is for a 6 year old) then nearly 10pm is even later - my 11 yo would struggle with that. They can also seem permanently and can talk the hind leg off a donkey if it means not having to go to bed.
But if you are concerned (and I haven't read your other threads)....I would talk to your neighbours. Have they noticed anything odd? Also talk to the mum a bit more, offer her some help, a friendly ear. You could maybe even call his school and have a chat with them.
If all that fails then by all means get social services involved, but I think there are a few options before then.
You invited someone else's six year old into your home and fed him at 9pm, and kept him there for 45 minutes? When were you planning on taking him home?
As soon as he rang the bell, you should have sent him home, or gone with him and asked whether he had eaten or not.
I agree with previous posters, the most worrying thing about your OP is that you took someone else's child into your house at that time of night without trying to contact them first.
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