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DSD constant headlice and poor teeth

(57 Posts)
Leuty Thu 04-Apr-13 22:20:11

My relationship with DH was complicated in that DSD was conceived whilst we were on a break. I've looked after her since she was a baby but have not had any children of my own yet. I adore my DSD, but I can't stand her mother (I keep things civil for her sake, I don't want her to see any negativity).

DSD first got headlice when she was a year old. I was horrified and treated it. However since then she's never been free of them (she's now 5) I comb and treat her hair every time she visits us (once weekly and every other weekend). I've mentioned this to BM and asked her if we could work together on this, she says she will but DSD is still riddled. Now I've got them (first time ever, perhaps I've been lucky?!) but I'm at the end of my tether with it. I understand children get headlice, but surely any parent, birth or step, should want to rid their child of them?!

Another issue is DSDs teeth. I've always brushed her teeth and taught her the importance of brushing and how to look after her teeth. She's got a mouth full of decay and now we've been told she will be having some removed. I'm heartbroken whilst BM continues to give sweets, fizzy drinks etc as 'they're coming out anyway'.

I don't have any parental responsibility and DH and myself just don't know what to do. I may well be flamed for this as 'the evil SM' but I honestly love my DSD and want her to be happy and healthy. These are only some of the problems relating to her personal care.

Am I being interfering? Am I wrong? Any advice welcome!

Thank you

Roseformeplease Thu 04-Apr-13 22:25:35

Not sure why all the "I" on this. Surely her welfare and health are the responsibility of your DH and he should tackle this?

Leuty Thu 04-Apr-13 22:35:16

Point taken, didn't mean to come across like that. He's tried to communicate with her, generally ends in the same promises with no outcome.

Nonetheless, we're a couple and trying to resolve this as one.

NotaDisneyMum Thu 04-Apr-13 23:52:45

The lice will have been noticed at school - if the problem is as severe as you describe, it won't be long before a referral is made to Childrens Services, particularly if your DSD is also missing school for dental appointments/extractions due to decay.
These are all signs of low level neglect that school staff are trained to identify and act on.

Is your DP active with the school? Does he meet teachers at parents evening/chat at the school door/take opportunities to participate in school events and activities?
If he's a 'familiar face' then the staff are more likely to involve him when discussing their concerns.

It's not something you can influence - your involvement begins and ends with your support for your DP as he deals with this issue himself.

Leuty Fri 05-Apr-13 00:04:07

Thank you for your reply smile.

DH is very involved with her school, attends meetings etc and keeps contact via email where possible. Perhaps he could bring his concerns up with them. He has a parents evening next term.

I've been the one that's treated the headlice only because he gets in a muddle and poor DSD ends up upset. However, I can continue to do this whilst DH tries to seek out other options to resolve this.

Again thanks for your reply, a more black and white perspective has helped as sometimes I find it difficult to detach myself!

ElenorRigby Fri 05-Apr-13 09:03:05

We have been through this with DSD.

She had head lice from when she went to school to around 8 years old. DP spent hours treating them but DSD's mother didn't so we never managed to break the life cycle until DSD was with us for an extended period of time. The lice got so bad once they were easily seen crawling on DSD's face and she had a face full of scabs from the intense itching (they managed to get that bad because DSD's mother stopped contact for months and so we weren't able to manage them)

Also DSD's mother didn't bother with oral hygiene and fed her lots of sugary crap, result DSD had 9 teeth extracted under anaesthetic aged 6.
The advice we took at the time was that if we raised the issue we would have been seen as hassling a single mother who was doing the best she could hmm
In hindsight it would have been better to raise concerns with the school and other authorities because at least then there would have been a record of the neglect.

We have a DD5 who is DSD's (half) sister.
To date she has had one very minor instance with lice (off her sister) at around 2 which we got rid of straight away. Also this week she had her second check up at the the Dentist, result DD5 has in the words of the dentist "perfect teeth". Amazing huh!

I agree it's horrid to see a child neglected, hope you and your DH can find a way to help her.

BTW You mentioned you disliked the mother can you expand on that. Also DSD was conceived during a break in your relationship with DH.
I'm asking because I have an idea the mother may be neglecting your DSD to hurt your DP.

Alwayscheerful Fri 05-Apr-13 09:05:15

I sympathise with the headlice, my 3 dsc had headlice for 2 or 3 years, in the end i was treating them once a fortnight, the bm just half heartedly treated them occasionally and said the children needed to take responsibility for themselves.

Chemical treatments arevexpensive and do not always work as lice become immune. It is vital that the whole family are treated together, combing through with conditioner is effective as the eggs cannot grip the hair but it is very time consuming and needs doing every evening,
lice do not like tea tree, you can buy tea tree shampoo or conditioner, add tea trea oil to normal shampoo and conditioner.

I tried everything but in the end I treated the whole family, including myself, one bank holiday weekend - chemicals, tea tree and then foul smelling neem oil, we have been nit free for 7 years.

I explained to the children that there is no shame in nits, but only shame in not dealing with them, the two girls, my stepdaughters were eternally grateful. I am sure the school knew the source of the headlice but other than the usual standard letters to the whole class the school took no action. I am convinceditbwas the neem oil which finally worked.

Good luck.

Alwayscheerful Fri 05-Apr-13 09:07:28

Oh and when the children's mother denied they had nits my husband gave her a pot of samples when he dropped the children "what's this exhibit A?" was all she said.

flurp Fri 05-Apr-13 10:40:43

I know it sounds harsh but I think you need to step back a bit.
My DSC have appalling teeth. They already look brown and they have loads of fillings. They drink coke constantly (even take a glass of coke up to bed with them shock) when at home.
I used to drive myself insane with it, and DP has countless arguments with their mum over it, we make them brush their teeth at our house and we never have fizzy drinks because my dc aren't that keen on them but what difference can we make when they are only here every other weekend? So now I just make sure they brush their teeth at my house and let the rest go! Very hard to do when you care so much about them, but as DPs ex pointed out "its hardly child abuse is it?". Apparently I'm posh for making them bath and clean their teeth every day! How can you argue with that mentality? You just can't.
I can totally see your point but it sounds is your involvement making the situation worse? Does her Mum resent you? Do you think she is doing this deliberately to get at you?

Jan45 Fri 05-Apr-13 11:01:45

Welcome to the frustrating world of step parenting. You can't do anymore than you already are, it's awful I know to watch what goes on and not be able to change it but you can't, the child is not yours, she has two parents, the mother who obviously has no problem neglecting her child. I know exactly how you feel, I have a step child whose mother neglected him but I also have the problem of my OH not parenting him, I don't know if it is out of laziness or he actually thinks it's okay not to guide his child etc, all in all, very frustrating for us who can see things are not getting done properly. Sorry not much help, I would try and step back a bit if I was you.

Xalla Fri 05-Apr-13 11:18:12

Keep your side of the street 'clean' when she's with you and try not to let yourself get too upset about the rest.

My DSD7 has had 2 abscesses in the last 3 months and 5 cavities in her milk teeth to date. My DS4 and DD2 so far have 'perfect teeth'. Admittedly my two are very young but I'm still pretty sure DSD's poor dental health is not down to the diet / dental hygeine routine we have in place here (she's with my DH 50% of the time). I remember picking my DSD up from nursery when she was 2 and finding a bottle of Dr Pepper in her bag that her Mum had provided as her "water bottle".

Unfortunately it's me that generally gets left to take DSD to dental appointments so it's me that gets the lectures from the dentist. I resist the urge to blurt out "but it's her Mum's fault" as DSD is usually standing right next to me but I really with I's embarrasing.

Like Jan says, welcome to the frustrating world of step parenting flowers

Leuty Fri 05-Apr-13 11:26:22

Thank you all for words of wisdom!

ElenorRigby - I dislike her mother mainly because of the way she treats DSD. She used to try to interfere with my relationship when DSD was a baby but now causes no problems at all. She has actually admitted she only had DSD because she wanted DH. I find it all very sad. They were never a couple, just a silly fling for 2 weeks.. With time I've realised her mother must have felt very alone (takes two to tango!) and simply wanted DHs support which he wasn't giving. All water under the bridge now, her mother is happy for us to have DSD and we're happy to care for her.

I've got an electric nit comb which is fabulous. In one sitting it will pull as many as 45! Alwayscheerful, I have considered keeping the evidence, your comment made me smile smile.

I've bought tea tree shampoo, will use that.

xuntitledx Fri 05-Apr-13 14:20:59

I'm shocked at some of the responses here basically just telling the OP there's nothing she can do and to leave it alone.

I'd be referring this to Child Services because it's neglect. Pure and simple.

Baby teeth may not be such a big issue as they will be replaced but this cycle of behaviour is only going to continue and will then damage the permanent big teeth and enforcing good oral hygiene once a fortnight isn't going to make a jot of difference.

I'd refer it, then it's in the hands of the authorities. If they choose not to act on it then at least you can sleep easily at night knowing you did all you could.

FrauMoose Fri 05-Apr-13 14:29:47

I would be asking myself whether this was part of a larger pattern of neglect and - if the answer was yes - how the child's longer term well being - physical/emotional/mental - was likely to be affected. I might even be discussing with my partner whether the child's interests were better served by continuing to live with the mother. Or with you and the father.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 05-Apr-13 14:35:39

untitled From bitter experience, I know that 'the authorities' are likely to dismiss concerns raised by ex spouses and step-parents as malicious.

That's not to say it won't be held on file, but it isn't a solution and can be counterproductive to building a better co-parenting relationship.

My DSC are subject to far more significant neglect than that described by the OP, and unfortunately, DP has been unable to secure any form of intervention or support for them. He continues to firefight - seeking medical treatment for the DCs when they need it, offering a safe haven and setting good examples.
The reality is that society has far greater needs than those of the OPs DSD or my own DSC - DP has been told, quite openly, by a social worker that until "something happens" to the DSC, the authorities do not have the resources to support their Mum.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 05-Apr-13 14:41:28

frau How do you propose a change in residency is secured? It's idealistic to think that a family court would change a DCs place of residency on the basis that they have nits and bad teeth. Even when Childrens Services and the Police are involved, family courts are reluctant to disrupt the Status Quo.

The reality is that DCs are placed, by the court, in the residency of a neglectful parent every day - even when a less neglectful home is available and seeking to change the arrangement.

xuntitledx Fri 05-Apr-13 14:43:33

NotaDisneyMum - I'm sorry to hear about your experience. Again, my experience varies greatly from yours (without going in to specifics) and the authorities are working with DSC-Mum to help resolve issues.

To clarify, my comment was not intended as the first cause of action, not at all but clearly when communication is breaking down between both parties with no compromise on each side then I believe intervention is required and in my experience, this is something that the local authorities can support with.

Leuty Fri 05-Apr-13 14:47:35

We have questioned ringing social services in the past but had the same concerns. There must be thousands of children with worse problems than my DSD, at least she does have a second home where she will always receive health care and love. It took us 8 months to finally have her asthma treatment started as our GP wouldn't start any treatment as our surgery isn't hers. Apparently she's no longer asthmatic and doesn't need an inhaler after 6 months treatment?! This is not from the doctor, this is from BM whilst poor DSD continues to cough and wheeze.

Thank you all for allowing me to vent my frustration.

FrauMoose Fri 05-Apr-13 14:55:31

There is information about applying for a residence order available on

All I'm saying is that Social Service involvement is not the only route if concerns about a child's welfare continue to grow.

Leuty Fri 05-Apr-13 14:58:17

Thank you Frau. It may be something we have to look into.

flurp Fri 05-Apr-13 16:22:52

Thing is Frau and xuntitledx -it's low level neglect and SS are very over stretched as it is. They aren't going to be bothered by a bad teeth and nits. If they were there would be a LOT of dc on their books.
I doubt if you would be bale to convince a court to let you have residency over this either.
NADM is right - it will be seen as malicious and won't be taken at all seriously,mores the pity.
DSD has had asthma, an infected tooth, all manner of stomach complaints and skin allergies and DP has had to fight to get her to the doctors every time sad

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Fri 05-Apr-13 16:33:30

I disagree with the statement that this isn't child abuse. Every child is entitled to better care than this.
I have no helpful suggestions, OP, just wanted to say you sound like a good person and I wish you luck with your attempts to make a difference to this little girl's life. Don't give up- you keeping up the effort on her behalf, even if you're unsuccessfu,l is of great importance to her emotionally and psychologically. It means she matters to someone and that counts for everything.

FrauMoose Fri 05-Apr-13 16:45:14

As I understand it in a private law case about residence, these are the factors a court would consider. The information is from the Cafcass website:-

The Welfare Checklist - section 1 Children Act 1989

When a court considers any question relating to the upbringing of a child under the Children Act 1989 it must have regard to the welfare checklist set out in s1 of that Act. Among the things the court must consider are:
a) The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of his age and understanding);
b) His physical, emotional and/or educational needs;
c) The likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
d) His age, sex, background and any characteristics of his, which the court considers relevant;
e) Any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
f) How capable each of his parents and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
g) The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act 1989 in the proceedings in question.
For all proceedings under the Children Act 1989 when the court considers a question of the child's upbringing the child's welfare is the court's paramount consideration.

Xalla Fri 05-Apr-13 16:46:57

Leuty, I concur with the others before me who have labelled it low level neglect - it's not abuse, it IS what you and I would term neglect but SS won't be keen to intervene until it could reasonably be defined as abuse. Personally I think a change of residence based on poor hygeine at Mums is equally far-fetched. That's been my DH's experience anyway.

I think a more realistic approach maybe for your DH to try and get his contact increased. When my DSD was much younger my DH like yours had EoW and one week night. During this time DSD was really badly constipated. Mum wouldn't accept it but it was awful - tears on the loo, blood on the loo paper, exploding accidents... My DH took matters into his own hands in the end when he found out Mum had lied about taking DSD to the doctors (she claimed she'd taken DSD and doc said there was nothing wrong with her, it transpired she'd never taken her. DH took her himself and DSD was referred to a specialist nurse and prescribed medication). Anyway, the reason I say push for more contact is because once my DH had 50/50, DSD was getting a decent diet 50% of the time and the problem diminished very quickly. She still has the odd bout but nothing like as traumatic as it used to be. Another issue with my DSD was that her Mum smokes a lot, in the car, in the house etc and DSD invariably spent half and hour after she woke up hacking up phlegm. Again, once DH got 50 / 50, that improved massively too.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 05-Apr-13 16:51:26

frau you are quite right that the court does consider those things - but have you experienced it first hand and therefore are familiar with how they interpret that Act?

I'm sure many regular posters here will be able to regale you with their own experiences of family court and I don't know of anyone who would agree that the OP has any chance of securing residency based on what she has posted here.

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