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Me and my sister are at breaking point over her treatment of my nephew.

(140 Posts)
AlmostToiletTrained Tue 16-Jul-13 17:03:02

Hi everyone.

I am a lurking occasional poster who could really do with some help. Or advice, or a kick up the backside?I?m not sure which to be honest. I didn't really know where to put this, so figured relationships was as good a place as any given the subject! Please feel free to move this if you think it would be better elsewhere.

This is probably going to be a long one, so than in advance if you make it to the end, I?ll try and keep it as brief as possible.

My sister and her partner had a baby almost three years ago. He is a complete joy. The problem is, they just have no interest. Neither of them work (not that this makes them bad people-just setting the scene) but sit around all day doing not much except for the baby?s dad smoking weed pretty much constantly. Their house is a health hazard, the little one?s bedroom is full of dirty nappies. I could go into more detail but not sure it's completely necessary to make my point.

My DP and I have our nephew as much as possible-we both work Monday-Friday but without fail pick him up every Friday and return him on Sunday evening. He comes on holiday with us and basically spends as much time as possible with us. I?m biased I know, but he is a relatively easy kid, and I love him so much. I dread Sunday evenings and taking him home. He also spends a LOT of time at a family friend?s house, to the point where my sister and her DP can go for two weeks without seeing him, as the family friend will have him when DP and I are at work, then we will take over Friday-Sunday.

I have tried everything I can think of to kick their arses into gear, but as much as I love my sister, my priority is now that little boy. Some of the things he comes out with now he can communicate better are heart-breaking.

I don?t know what to do. I feel so stuck. I don?t want to kick up so much of a fuss that they take him away from me-but I know this is so selfish I?m cringing just typing it. I also can?t sit by any longer and do nothing. Please someone point me in a direction that might help. I?m lost and just want to make things better him and I feel like I need someone from the outside looking in to help me decide what to do as I?m so confused and can?t see straight because I?m in the thick of it.

This is way more concise than I thought it would be-and thanks in advance for any replies and I?m sorry if I don?t reply for a while as I?m a wee bit busy this evening. I will be back as soon as I can, as I say, I?m a long time lurker and can't keep away!

Turniphead1 Fri 19-Jul-13 16:33:57

Good luck OP and partner. What a heartbreaking situation.

MrsDeVere Fri 19-Jul-13 09:30:43

Just take it one step at a time now.
You have discussed the future and worked out what you would do/could do.
You have explored the options.

So I think for the sake of your sanity you should concentrate on the now and go from there.

It is a very stressful situation because you can be deeply involved with a child but have absolutely no power at all (hence the discussions around doing things formally). Its very hard to have that sort of responsibility but know you can't make any decisions.

Your first step is to talk to them. Do that and go from there. It may get better, it may not.

Whatever happens, you have already made a difference.

Just adding my support as am off out. Good luck you both sound fantastic.

Mixxy Fri 19-Jul-13 08:50:55

Find my self thinking of you guus and your DN every day.

yamsareyammy Fri 19-Jul-13 08:50:41

Not going to advise you what to do at all.

Personally I dont think the talking will work, they seem ingrained in what they are doing.

The calling of ss. Neighbours are sometimes the ones to call ss.

Rossi24601 Fri 19-Jul-13 08:35:15

My head is absolutely screwed by all this at the moment.

I think we're going down the line of talking to them and just see where it goes. If we ended up calling in SS after that, yes it'd be obvious it was us, but then I think it would be anyway. It's just so hard to know what to do for the best - I don't want to make things worse for him.

I may be being very naive but I think we could quickly adapt to having him full time if needed - it seems daunting now, but we'd do anything for him and if that meant a total change of lifestyle (we're not exactly party animals anyway!) - then so be it. In all reality, I don't see this happening however, but, I'm not totally saying it won't.

I just find the whole situation very sad, frustrating and difficult.

MrsDeVere Fri 19-Jul-13 08:06:02

It was not until I did my last OU course which was all about Family Law and SS that I got an understanding of it all.
Despite being involved in it for years. It had all been a bit vague before. I knew stuff but didn't really 'get' it.

It was the hardest course I have ever done but very, very interesting and useful.

I have NO idea how anyone gets through an entire Law Degree.

yamsareyammy Thu 18-Jul-13 22:55:58

For some reason, I thought ss was the law, the establishment whatever.
But of course, no, now I realise they are not. The Law is higher, highest.

MrsDeVere Thu 18-Jul-13 22:32:00

IME Yams all parties need a specialist solicitor in family cases.
We didn't get one till later in the proceedings but DS had one of his own, birth mum had hers and SS had their's.

Its all about The Law.

Labradorwhisperer Thu 18-Jul-13 22:30:13

Thanks, MrsDeVere. Happy to help!

Yams...SS do sometimes advise people to consult a solicitor. They may suggest this to parents sometimes, for example when they are thinking of court proceedings, or suggest it to relatives who wish to be carers, or in any other circumstances that can arise. I would always consider taking that advice. You don't have to wait for advice to get it though. Sometimes it's better to get advice early.

The cuts in legal aid can make it harder in some circumstances to get representation.

yamsareyammy Thu 18-Jul-13 22:13:29

Just so I am personally clear for another time if needed, even ss advise people sometimes to consult a specialist solicitor?

Nottalotta Thu 18-Jul-13 22:09:12

I'm sorry i haven't read all the responses. I will add that i am reasonably experienced in this sort of situation both through work (regular participation in child protection conferences et) and through being the child of a foster carer who had a lot to do with birth parents, contact etc. OP you mention that you think your sister would like you to have dn full time but doesn't want to admit it. Have you spoken to her? Either in a totally up front way ....'you seem to be struggling to cope, would it help if we had dn full time for a few weeks?' or maybe suggest you have him an extra day, or that they pick him up from you (and hope they don't....) thismay seem a bit sneaky but maybe needs must - the ball is in their court. I think it could be very difficult to get SS to take any action at all. .sounds awful for your dn but in reality is unlikely to 'meet the threshold' for neglect severe enough to warrent a care order.

MrsDeVere Thu 18-Jul-13 21:25:46

Thank you for that Labrador
Really, really useful information.

Labradorwhisperer Thu 18-Jul-13 21:17:45

Right, I rarely respond to posts like this, but its time to out myself a little bit.

This sort of thing is exactly my line of work (not to put too fine a point on it). If anyone I knew came to me with this sort of issue I would absolutely advise speaking to a solicitor. You can usually get a free consultation with a solicitor without obligation and this could be a starting point.

I have no experience of the emotional side of kinship care but I would urge you to think carefully about it. MrsDeVere has given you some great insights and you can't go into this lightly.

Informal care is something you can agree with your sister but there is the potential for complications if you don't have parental responsibility for your DN. How relevant this is will depend on the relationship you have with your sister but the essence will be that there would be nothing to stop her asking for your DN back and legally, you would be in difficulty.

Social services may choose to get involved and you could come forward as carers that way, or you could seek a residence order yourselves. I don't want to scare you but if social services get involved and the parents are not suitable, for a child of your DN's age, if there are no other suitable family members, as a last resort, adoption is one option. This usually means more often than not no direct contact to the birth family (letters only). I am not speaking about your DN specifically but it is really important that you understand the gravity of the situation (I am sure you do). This is why I reccomend a solicitor.

I cannot advise you (there are rules about informal advice). You really need some good legal advice. Try and get an appointment with a solicitor, preferably on the Children's Panel. Your DN's childhood is far too important to risk.

Best of luck, OP

MrsDeVere Thu 18-Jul-13 21:16:45

But they won't get a SGO without a care order being in place or the parents consenting to them becoming the child's guardians.

joblot Thu 18-Jul-13 20:48:02

Have you sought legal advice? A special guardianship order may be best. With a core assessment there is no guarantee the sw will conclude this child is being abused/further action by ss is needed. Proving neglect is hard and parents lie which makes things harder. So often there's no further action following a core.

I'd recommend a legal approach

Maryz Thu 18-Jul-13 20:15:00

And please don't listen to people who say "just take him, he deserves better, yada yada". It doesn't work like that.

My advice would be - whatever you do, make sure that it doesn't make things worse for him. So a big show-down may well mean he never sees you again, and thus is to be avoided.

Unfortunately for you, the birth parents hold all the cards in this. So whether it sounds reasonable or not you will have to work with them. And because there is a likelihood of family and friend help and support, if SS get involved they may well be able to pull things together enough to convince SS maintain the status quo. Social workers don't want to split up families, and things have to be very bad to take children into care.

I think you and the friends who take him during the week need to get together and keep a joint diary of how often he is actually at home. Keep a contemporary record of everything he says about his home life. Take note of conditions at home.

If you do decide to go down the involving social workers route, it might be worth one or other of you seeing if you can get a bit of unpaid leave, and seeing what the reaction would be to you offering to take him for a couple of weeks, just to test the waters.

But be careful. My mum had a friend who looked after her grandchild (her daughter's son) this much - drug addicted parents, neglect in the home etc. She had him Sunday night to Saturday morning every year for 5 years. Eventually she involved SS because he was left alone often on the only night he was home. The parents kicked off and banned her from seeing him. She ended up not seeing him for years. I don't know what happened in the end, but she never got custody and I think he ended up going from pillar to post among various members of his father's family. It was awful.

Maryz Thu 18-Jul-13 20:02:49

I'm coming a bit late to this thread, but can I just say to the OP and her dh.

Please listen to MrsDeVere - contact her by pm or irl to get advice as she knows about this. She has been through it.

It is all very well to think that this should be simple - they treat him badly, so he should live with us. That is unlikely how it will pan out sad.

lunar1 Thu 18-Jul-13 19:56:15

I hope you find a way to help your dn, I can't imagine how hard it must be to know what you are sending him back to.

LifeIsSoDifferent Thu 18-Jul-13 19:39:36

I really hope you work something out for your DN sake. Poor boy

laeiou Thu 18-Jul-13 19:14:25

A HV or midwives most likely visited them at home when the baby was born. This is to identify exactly what you describe and put support in place. I again suggest you talk to the HV. Just contact the boy's GP surgery if you don't know who the HV is.

Rossi24601 Thu 18-Jul-13 17:59:04

A few responses:

CB income - yes I can fully see that if they realised that CB would disappear, they'd not be so keen to hand him over. But, I'm really hoping this just kicks them into gear and makes them make changes.

Yes, it has been like this since he was very small. We didn't start having him straight away (apart from the odd day), but it's now he has got older that we're with him nearly every weekend (and would be lot more if we didn't have to work in the week). As for Health Visitor - I don't have a clue what they know or think.....I think as he is healthy enough physically and they go to their appointments - they don't know anything of this.

As for midweek care - he would have to go into some kind of childcare in the week - I can't go into too many details on here, but it's not something that would be an issue for us.

MadameDefarge - The ideal is they get themselves into gear and step up as you say. Knowing them though - this isn't likely. We've gone over and over should we just not have him for weekends, let him stay at home but the reality is 1 of 2 things:
1 - Someone else would take him (big family, lots of other people)
2 - He'd stay at home, get shouted at for everything and generally have a rubbish time and be resented.

NatashaBee - Speaking to family friend - we have done this and they agree things are not right. Perhaps we should raise some more serious concerns with him and get them onside - that's a good idea actually. Thanks.

Thanks again for all your replies - we'll keep you all posted.

NatashaBee Thu 18-Jul-13 16:17:35

Have you spoken to the family friend who minds your nephew the majority of the time when he's not with you? They could be a very useful ally to you... or they could side with your sister and make whatever road you decide to go down very difficult. I would talk to them if you haven't already, and get them onside.

cestlavielife Thu 18-Jul-13 16:04:29

the reality is this child would best staying with his parents if they can up their game. For this they clearly need support. encouraging people to sneak a baby into their home by the back door is not going to end well, most especially for this little boy.

Rather than taking dn more, I would suggest maybe some kind of family and friend intervention, with an independent mediator to outline your concerns, and then withdraw from making it so easy for them not to step up.

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