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witnessing child abuse, what to do.

(29 Posts)
ScandinavianAupair Thu 30-Jun-11 03:31:10

I have cross osted this from adoptions as i really need help on this and am not sure what to do or where best to post it, sorry.

I am gay, i know that gay adoption is hard, i know people may have bad ideas of it... but i also know how it works i need experiance with kids, i love kids, and so at the begginning of this year i became an aupair. im a brit living in sweden.

My first placement in sweden was the most amaising time of my life, but the second was less so. In fact the second Aupair job was more of a disaster that was shocking for me.

My second job was in Finland, The family i chose happened to be a gay couple, and as a gay woman I thought it may be a way to score extra bonus points with the adoption agencies in the uk and sweden.
What i saw from the moment i walked through the door was shocking, I saw a chainsaw with no guards where a 4 year old could grab it. I saw knifes placed on a high shelf in a very busy area -it concerned me as if the 4 year old banged into it they could be easy killed by the falling knifes. I also saw a house that was FILTHY at least a cm of dog hair, old mouldy food, spilled juice, and dog excriment on the kitchin floor where the 4 year old was playing. I also witnessed there inability to hold children in a respectful way, they held the baby over the sink while changing her and refused to use a changing mat or to support her head fully - i even saw the kids legs go purple and blue as a result of the parents refusal to use a changing mat.
The garden was not safe at all, there was a steep bank that was not fenced off so the four year old could easy fall down it and hurt themselfs.
They had mixed up the dvds so there where adult dvds with childrens dvds.

They had a building site which was unsafe and open to children - they where doing up the attic and the stairs they where fitting had a loose step on top, which means that the four year old could easy fall through and break its neck.
They had an aversion to cleaning "i want to spend more time with the children"
the baby - who is 2 months old stopped breathing after they where sick
I spent the last few days crying out of dispair i simply dont know what to do. I have reported them to the social services in Finland but cant do more....
I am feeling both shocked, confused, and ashamed at myself for leaving them alone with these people.. i am 22 they are 32 and yet it seams i have more of an idea how to care for kids.
When i was leaving they said "you'll never make a good parent."
which cuts me really deep. i want to show an example of how frustraighting they where when handing the baby to them i said "have you got her head?" and the birth mum said "dont you dare f<???/)ing tell me how to raise my children!!"
Im now homeless and without work, i got back to stockholm on tuesday morning via ferry.
sorry for misspelling words i happen to be dyslexic.
i want to know what i can do to help the kids further? i left after 3 days arrived friday left on monday after midsommer

giraffesCantZumba Thu 30-Jun-11 03:57:54

Child abuse - police and social services.

giraffesCantZumba Thu 30-Jun-11 04:00:51

I saw knifes placed on a high shelf in a very busy area -it concerned me as if the 4 year old banged into it they could be easy killed by the falling knifes. -

If it was a high shelf how could the child bang in to it?!

giraffesCantZumba Thu 30-Jun-11 04:05:38

When you say adult dvds with children? What do you mean by adult? and does it matter if child not putting them on himself?

garlicnutter Thu 30-Jun-11 04:13:06

Sounds horrific. No wonder you feel traumatised. You've reported to them to the police - I guess that's about all you can do, especially as you've left the country. Please also report them to the agency that placed you. They should take the family off their books, so at least no other girls have to go through what you did! Plus, that'll give you a chance to make sure your record is still good.

It's amazing they had the confidence to invite an au pair in, they must be staggeringly unaware.

hairfullofsnakes Thu 30-Jun-11 04:47:27

You have reported all this right? Oh my, those poor children

iscream Thu 30-Jun-11 05:47:57

You did what you could, and did the right thing reporting them. They sound awful. Do not despair, you will find another position, just don't use them as a reference!

Parietal Thu 30-Jun-11 05:49:15

A lot of the things you are concerned about are safety related, but different people and different cultures can have very different attitudes to safety. A 4 year old is not suicidal and can easily learn to avoid a steep bank, a building site and a chainsaw. Some people argue that it is even better for the child to learn to judge what is safe than to be kept wrapped in cotton wool.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 30-Jun-11 06:56:46

What on earth has being gay got to do with it? Oh, hang on, do you mean that you're an au pair in order to gain experience with children so that you can adopt later? Ok that makes more sense, sorry.

Some of the things you're mentioning are really trivial; are you worried that if the DVDs are mixed up the 4 year old will put something inappropriate on? My block is steep as well, and can't be fenced; I've taught my two year old to be careful walking up and down the steep bit, and she always is. A four year old isn't going to throw themselves off a bank! She also knows to stay away from power tools (and our open fire!), I would expect a four year old to be fine around those things as long as they've been taught appropriately in the first place. Likewise stairs. Again, my two year old knows not to climb the stairs without supervision.

Knives on a high shelf - you're over-reacting, I think. Anything falling off a high shelf could be dangerous - picture frames breaking, books hitting someone on the head, a vase smashing - but the chance of someone banging into it and the object falling off rarely outweighs the inconvenience of not having anything on open shelves for years and years on end.

The only things that are concerning are the level of filthiness and the way the baby was handled (although, my memory fails me here, does a 2 month old need head support still?). But you haven't witnessed any violence or verbal abuse towards the children? Are they fed and bathed and dressed appropriately? I'd have thought that hiring an au pair is a pretty good solution to the cleanliness issue, don't au pairs do some cleaning if asked? So...that leaves 'not handling the children in a respectful way'.

Cyrli Thu 30-Jun-11 07:26:34

Changing mats are not used much in Finland as it's usual to wash babies under a running tap. Different to how things are done in the uk, but not a sign of child abuse.

Bast Thu 30-Jun-11 07:40:47

Did the baby die? confused

Bast Thu 30-Jun-11 07:49:40

Difficulty breathing just prior or just after vomiting is normal although not necessarily common. I should imagine it is quite scary to witness if you don't have experience of it. Some young children just do.

As an Au Pair, I think you ought to be aware that, at times, people will hire you as they are aware there is a need for an extra pair of hands and support WRT to care of their children.

Not every situation will strike you as ideal, many will. If you aren't comfortable, you are right to remove yourself from the family, leaving them free to hire someone maybe with more experience, understanding and tact.

hester Thu 30-Jun-11 07:55:36

This was obviously a shocking experience for you. We don't get quite enough information from your post to really judge what was going on, but you were there, we weren't, and you saw enough to be concerned so you were right to alert the authorities. I don't really see that there is anything else you can do.

Moving on, I would suggest that you use this awful experience as good preparation for adoption. Some of the posters here have suggested that you may be overreacting to what you saw. I haven't seen what you've seen and I have no view on that, but it's worthwhile sorting out in your head what is genuinely damaging to children (sharp knives, disrespectful handling, dog shit) and what may be not your preference and not ideal but is not in itself a big deal (dust, spilled juice). The social workers will want to see that you keep a clean, safe home - but you will also need to help your child understand his/her early life experiences and come to terms with them. You may need to be a bit more accepting of things you don't like but aren't a reason for taking a child into care (a dirty house) in order to provide the proper focus on why a child would be taken for adoption (lack of food, safety etc).

Good luck with the adoption. Incidentally, there are a few of us gay adopters on the adoption threads, and you may have already come across the lesbian and gay adoption network

Lolly1985 Thu 30-Jun-11 08:30:01

None of these incidents seem to be child abuse, the level of cleanliness is a little concerning however the dog poo on the floor may have just happened, sometimes dogs have accidents, so long as the kids are kept away from the area until its properly cleaned then this is a situation that could happen to any dog-loving family.
None of my friends use changing mats and once my baby is born I don't intend to use 1 either, what's wrong with a towel on a stable surface while u have the child under supervision?
Its better to have knives on a high shelf than somewhere in reach of the 4year old.
I understand that if u don't have kids or a huge amount of experience in looking after kids then some things can seem amiss but u really need to exercise common sense when it comes to raising children safely and before judging others methods of chilld rearing. The fact that u have informed the proper authorities was the right thing to do and this couple will now have various people intruding upon their home periodically if something is found to be amiss.
I am a dentist and I am well trained to spot child abuse. I wouldn't say from your post that u have witnessed child abuse, just people who are bad at housework. Of course this can be viewed as abuse by neglect. However, I didn't see the situation for myself so cannot make an informed judgement. Don't feel guilty you did the right thing, if the people are at fault they'll be stopped but if social services don't find problems then they should b left in peace and u shouldn't worry.
Spend time with other parents, people u know and trust and see how every1 else does things then pick and choose methods that would work for you as a parent. I think u would b a great Dad as u show such a level of concern for children's well-being but u seem to b super worried about some stuff that isn't the end of the world which could make u over protective and ultimately may stop u enjoying your time as a parent. The most important safety tip with young children is supervision, if there were chainsaws etc its highly unlikely that the child could use that to hurt itself anyway but if it is being watched then it shouldn't get the chance!
Good luck with everything smile

BornInAfrica Thu 30-Jun-11 08:35:01

U got trouble typing out the word 'you'??

Lolly1985 Thu 30-Jun-11 08:51:49

No, why is that? I had a long post and wanted to save some time. You do realise, I hope, that two question marks could be construed as overkill? Why not post something constructive rather than just pick on the way other people post? Its very mean spirited

cory Thu 30-Jun-11 09:06:23

Some of your reactions do seem a little over the top.

Washing a baby in the sink may seem disrespectful to you because we use changing mats in the UK, but that doesn't mean it is disrespectful per se. I often washed ds in the sink when staying with my parents in Sweden; it was convenient and he seemed happy.

Not having every steep place fenced off for the safety of a 4yo- again, you are thinking in terms of the UK, where children are not allowed to climb trees of play unsupervised any longer. In Scandinavia, a 4yo is seen as someone with a fair bit of sense who should be able to negotiate the big outdoors closest to his home. I (and my children after me) were allowed to play within calling distance of the house; this included rocky outcrops and steep inclines: the idea was that by the time you got to the age of 4 you would have learnt about the dangers of your particular environment and how to negotiate them (e.g. which rock you had to climb down backwards because it was steep), where the water was deep.

4yo are also expected to be learning to use tools such as hammers and saws (though admittedly not chainsaws) under supervision, so would be expected to have the sense not to go grabbing a chainsaw.

Dvds- we have ours all mixed up and so do lots of people I know: I would expect a 4yos to know which dvds are his.

It may of course be that this family was particularly filthy and careless.

But ime Scandinavian families, even very conscientious and well educated families, think that our overprotectiveness of children amounts to child abuse, as it does not engage them in family activities and fails to prepare them for the modern world. There is certainly no statistics indicating more childhood deaths or injuries in Scandinavia, but there is plenty of evidence that British children have a greater tendency to engage in dangerous behaviour (such as drugs, unprotected sex etc); perhaps because there is so little legitimate risk taking in their lives.

cory Thu 30-Jun-11 09:13:25

I would add that when I first arrived in the UK, I was horrified at how I saw parents treating their children: shouting at them, smacking them (which is illegal in Sweden), keeping them indoors as much as possible during the cold months, giving them unhealthy party food like crisps and chips as part of an everyday diet, keeping little girls in clothing that meant they could hardly play out of doors at all; all this seemed to me like a mixture of abuse and neglect.

From a Swedish pov there would have been plenty there to report to SS. I am glad I didn't make a fool of myself in this way, as most of those children have now grown up into perfectly healthy and well adjusted teens who are closely attached to their parents.

Lolly1985 Thu 30-Jun-11 09:25:37

Cory, thanks for your concise and sensible posts, you managed to capture what I was trying to say perfectly!

BooyHoo Thu 30-Jun-11 09:31:26

the child's legs went blue from being held upright? i dont think so love. i have two children and have carried both of them upright during their infancy. never have their legs gone blue from this. most children get held upright.

mummytime Thu 30-Jun-11 09:34:01

Also thank you Cory, as it just proves my slightly negligent treatment of my kids is good for them. (I even let them have a trampoline, and when one broke their ankle, you could hear the disapproval.)
OP you do need to be careful, there are cultural differences and differences in the way parents and trained nursery staff treat kids. So was it abuse or just different parenting? If abuse you should/should have reported it. If not then maybe you should learn. Being an Au Pair is not an easy job.

mummytime Thu 30-Jun-11 09:36:30

Sorry have to add, my kids all had strong neck muscles, and I've always found it weird to have to be careful with other peoples kids necks. So maybe the baby didn't need the careful head thing?

giraffesCantZumba Thu 30-Jun-11 10:58:13

My first post I meant if you suspect abuse contact police and ss. As to be honest the thread swam before my eyes - late night and on heavy drugs. Anyway re reading this morning I do think a lot of it is that it is far from ideal but not abusive. It is sort of like being taught to make a babys bottle up properly then coming in to a family where they make it in advance - its up to you to assess whether you stick with your own way or whether you just follow instruction from your employers. As a nanny I have to demonstrate a level of professionalism and best practice as I am PAID to be doing things, so saying fuck it we will watch TV and I will MN all day and you can eat wostsits, would be completely unacceptable for me. However as a parent you can do that if you want - no problems, its not abuse. (Hope I dont sound judgey - I mean I would let my dn wander around in her vest with yog smeared on her face and watch 3 postman pats in a row but I wouldn't do that with the little girl at work I look after who is exactly the same age) Some families have different standards of things and there is a broad specrtum between abuse and "perfection"!

Are the children being physically abused?
emotionally abused?
sexually abused?
or neglected?

giraffesCantZumba Thu 30-Jun-11 10:59:12

oh fuck I meant strng prescription pain killers, now I sound like a drug addict! blush

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Fri 01-Jul-11 14:07:47

Cory, what fascinating posts, thank you. I didn't know some of those things about Britain (although Australia is still fairly English, culturally, there are little things that slip under the radar a lot) - is it really true that children are not allowed to play unsupervised or climb trees?

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