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To think it wrong for a 14 yo to be left alone for a week....

(121 Posts)
Vallhala Wed 21-Oct-09 22:09:08

... while the Mum goes on holiday abroad?

Background -

My DD1 (14) has fairly recently become friends with 'Jane', a class-mate. Nice kid, friendly and polite, but thats all I really know of her.

The night before last DD tells me that Jane's Mum has gone on a foreign holiday and that since last weekend Jane has been alone at home. The parents are divorced and Dad lives in a town about half an hour away from Jane and her Mum.... but she's okay because their (20s male student) lodger is sometimes about in the house. Like Jane is his responsibility ffs! As I understand it there's no arrangement with said lodger to care for Jane.

Tonight I learn that Mum has been ringing Jane daily asking her to lie to Mums firm and say Mum is absent from work ill. Jane has been, I'm told, terribly upset about this and feeling very awkward answering the phone to the Mums firm, who are calling regularly. Then there was a comment that Jane had no food left in the house (turns out she had nothing but a pack of rolls), that she had 'taken 4 tablets one after another', but no-one knows what they were and that Dad had been on the scene briefly and left her £4 (no thats not a typo!), but can't take Jane to his as he has to work!

Needless to say I got DD to call Jane and she went straight round to meet her and bring her back to my house to stay. Poor kid is lovely, must have been scared shitless alone like that and hungry and will stay here til her !!!! of a mother returns home on Sunday.

I'm NOT being unreasonable in being shocked - I am a hard-hearted beggar but I was in tears as I told DD to go fetch Jane tonight.

I probably would be VERY unreasonable if I slapped both parents and in jail so thank god its not in my nature to do such a thing.

But am I being unreasonable to take this further - and if so with whom? I don't know either parent, I don't want to upset Jane by causing trouble and I don't want DD to be in the middle, ostracised at school for anything I do or say, lose Jane's friendship or DDs trust in me. I've spoken out to school and risked DD being caught up in it all when she told me that a girl in class was bringing pot into school and I got flamed for that here, btw!

What, if anything, do I do, apart from feed and care for this lovely kid until Sunday? I don't want her life to be made misery, I'm trying not to be 'judgey' but I feel so responsible and concerned.

FlamingoBingo Wed 21-Oct-09 22:13:27

Difficult one.

It wouldn't be unreasonable to leave a 14yo alone for a week with the right support in place - neighbours/family/friends helping out, plenty of food etc. But this situation is clearly really badly managed, and asking the DD to lie for her mother??? hmm

I don't know what you can do about it, other than care for her until her mum comes back and if she does it again.

What outcome do you think is appropriate from any action you could take? She'll be 16 in two years' time - would any SS involvement make those 2 years worse or better than they are now?

Why not make plenty of opportunity for the girls to tell you how she feels about it, and how she feels about her life in general? And then take it from there?

janeite Wed 21-Oct-09 22:16:36

I am astonished that anybody would think it okay to leave a 14 year old for a week. Thank goodness she's got you. I would contact the school if I were you and tell them what you know.

caramelwaffle Wed 21-Oct-09 22:16:59

Flamingo has summed it up very neatly I feel

LadyGlencoraPalliser Wed 21-Oct-09 22:17:49

You will now get three million posts ordering you to call social services at once.
What would I do? Honestly, I would probably contact Jane's form tutor (presumably the same as your DD's) and tell her the situation. I think the school ought to know and it is up to them then to decide what to do with the information.
There is another adult in the house so I suppose in theory the mother could claim she left Jane in his care. hmm
I think what you HAVE done is absolutely the right thing and well done, you sound lovely.
You've done more for her than anyone in her family is prepared to do, so don't feel that you need to solve all her problems - you won't be able to.

Hulababy Wed 21-Oct-09 22:18:47

IMO a 14y should not be left alone for a week.

Can you speak to school?

janeite Wed 21-Oct-09 22:20:04

Lady G put it much better than I did - listen to her!

I would say Head of Year rather than form tutor though, or whoever is in charge of ECM and safeguarding (usually a deputy).

Prinnie Wed 21-Oct-09 22:21:32

I agree flamingo - my parents left me for 2 weeks when I was 15 (on a deserted farm!!), but mum stocked up the cupboards for me before I went and arranged for various relatives to drop in, left lots of money etc. They were also on official annual leave so I didn't have to phone their workplaces!

However this sounds very different and more like neglect. Poor girl. I don't know who you could approach about it though.

Vallhala Wed 21-Oct-09 22:23:51

Lady, I'm not lovely hun, I'm just doing what any of you would do. I'm also outsspoken and think that it is wrong to leave a 14 yo for a week so the least I can do is 'put my money where my mouth is'.

Its because of how I feel about leaving a 14 yo that I am worried - are my concerns justified or am I just reacting on how I parent my DDs and thinking that because I feel this way everyone should? Not sure of why I am concerned in this respect, iyfswim.

Twintummy Wed 21-Oct-09 22:25:56

I agree totally with Lady G.

Pretty shocked really. Thank god she has you.

abbierhodes Wed 21-Oct-09 22:27:25

My initial reaction was to ring SS.

However, in the real world, what I would actually do is help out in a practical way as you are doing. Support her, be there any time she needs you. Don't alienate the mother. Be there every time the mother is away for the next 4 years or however long she needs you.

That way you don't risk causing trouble, and you are giving the child a support network.

I've seen what happens when children are taken into care at that age and it often isn't pretty. (That's not a dig at anyone who works in SS by the way, it's the system I hate not the social workers)

I'm basing this advice on the assumption that you don't think the girl is abused in any other way, or that the home is not a safe place for her to be. If either of those are the case, then I'd involve the authorities despite my other concerns.

frakula Wed 21-Oct-09 22:28:55

Hm, tricky.

My parents are clearly irresponsible because they left me when I was 14 (but they were only in Wales, I knew my best friend's family were on call, she was staying with me, we had a long list of prescribed dos and don'ts, we had plently of money if we needed it and they didn't ask me to lie).

In this case it does sound rather like neglect, so you should contact someone - possibly school.

Good for you for looking after her but I'm really sorry you've been put in this situation.

6feetundertheGroundhogs Wed 21-Oct-09 22:30:08

Valhalla, what a wonderful person you are. I hope that Jane has a brilliant time with you and your family this week.

Agree with Flamingo, see how she feels, and think about what is the best to do for her. School ought to be told. The rest is down to them.

God I'd want a hard word with that woman when she slopes back off her sodding holiday!

FlamingoBingo Wed 21-Oct-09 22:30:56

Valhalla, the point is that this girl has been left not just on her own, but expected to completely fend for herself and lie for her mother! The mother and the father clearly don't give a shit about her.

But what do you think the outcome of any action would be? Seriously, is her life so awful that SS involvement would improve it? Or is it just a bit crap and SS involvement would risk making it much crapper? I don't know how much you know about her day to day life.

I think you would be overreacting if she had lots of support in place - that would just be about a difference in parenting styles, as you say - but this is a different matter entirely.

Please see if you can find out how she feels before you do anything and please do do something if you have serious concerns.

To my mind, this is more about what her being left alone signifies, than about the actual fact of her being left alone IYSWIM, and you need to find out if it does signify serious long-term neglect before you risk making her life worse by involving SS.

colditz Wed 21-Oct-09 22:33:02

Tobe honest, if everything else is ok at home, I would leave it.

This isn't because I condone it - I don't. But because girls who go into care aged 14 often don't come out unscathed. She is, despite her idiot parents, safer at home

pigletmania Wed 21-Oct-09 22:34:42

YANBU call social services, please look after this girl until they turn up this mother if you could call her one is a selfish f"%&@. Good on you for taking her in, this girl is a child and should not be made to do her mums dirty work.

RockinSockBunnies Wed 21-Oct-09 22:38:18

I'd wait and see what the mother says when she returns before alerting SS. At the same time, it does sound like neglect. I was left at fourteen for up to a week at a time, but had neighbours, friends, food and had a great time! I loved being home alone. This situation sounds far removed from that. Poor girl.

Vallhala Wed 21-Oct-09 22:40:49

Would Jane end up in care if I reported this to SS or the school? (Assuming there are no other concerns or neglect/abuse etc, that is). I really have no idea how they work or what the consequences would be if I said anything to anyone in authority.

I certainly don't want to cause the poor girl harm or distress (could do some serious talking to the bloody parents though! angry

slowreadingprogress Wed 21-Oct-09 22:43:52

I would definitely tell the school's CP/Safeguarding link teacher. They need to know what's going on at home in order to help her in school. And personally, I would let social services know - she's a child and if you're taking her in I think to protect both her and you then it needs to be done 'in the open'.

slowreadingprogress Wed 21-Oct-09 22:46:18

It's highly unlikely she'd end up in care. Do you know just how incredibly hard it is to get a 14 year old into care?! Things have to be pretty damn abusive for that to happen in reality.

I think you do need to think about your own position in this as well. Attack is the best form of defence for some parents 'caught' neglecting their kids and you could be in a vulnerable position purely because of your kindness, imo, unless you let authorities know

At the end of the day it is not your call to make. It's the proper authorities call

blueshoes Wed 21-Oct-09 22:46:59

What Flamingo and Colditz said.

Valhalla, putting your money where your mouth is means speaking to this girl's mother when she gets back, not shopping her to SS behind her back.

That should be your first action if you have the girl's interests at heart.

Vallhala Wed 21-Oct-09 22:56:41

Okay Blueshoes.. but say what? That your child was hungry, frightened, lonely and that you are an utterly selfish s.o.b.?

Or that I understand her need for a break in the sun with her pals but her DD was in a teensy bit of a spot and her plan was a weeny bit ill thought out but forgive me for pointing out what should be the bleedin' obvious?

I don't even know the woman! Where would I start?

As for 'shopping her to SS' - I have made no decision but if I do contact the authorities it won't be in order to 'shop' anyone, any more than you would feel you were doing so if you were mugged, knew the assailant and reported it to the police.

colditz Wed 21-Oct-09 22:59:23

vallhala I'd go with the first thing.

I think if you ask her how she would feel if you were to tell the school - might make her think about whether she should have done it in the first place?

VicarInaBooTu Wed 21-Oct-09 22:59:55

id contact the school.

IF her mum had left with contingency plans in place, lots of food and NOT to be asking the poor lass to lie to her mums employers id say fair enough.
as it is id say blimey...thats mothers an irresponsible loon.
id let the school know and leave it up to them. i think if 'jane' is upset id have to let the school deal with it, sounds a not very good situation, very irresponsible.

my DD is really sensible, she is 12, id never imagine for a moment leaving her home alone in 18 months time to fend for herself while i wasnt even in the same bloody country!

contact school, they should know.

abbierhodes Wed 21-Oct-09 23:03:39

Just to make the point, the school will tell social services. If that's what you want, fine, I can understand completely why you would choose that course. But don't kid yourself that you're doing nothing more than having a quiet chat with the form tutor.

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