Feels like a crisis is looming - need advice/help please(15 Posts)
Sorry don't know where to start.
Have 2 dsc (14 and 13) they live with their mum (Dh's exW) about 90 miles away from us.
Last 12 months their mum has been having problems with depression, heavy drinking and a violent bf. Culminated in her taking an overdose last July when they were on holiday with us. She rang the dsc to tell them what she'd done and that she wanted to die .
We rang police who got her into hospital overnight (was a small overdose apparently). SS were informed at the time and took it evry seriously as she works for them. Someone senior talked to dh and said the kids weren't at risk as they were old enough to walk out of the house if they wanted.
Since then (and before really) dsc have told us very little about what is going on. They visit infrequently and have said they can't leave their mum (recent visits have ended with her ringing them in tears saying she misses them and can't cope).
Dss has started getting into trouble at school - 2 exclusions in last 6 months. Dsd has been very withdrawn over the last few weeks when dh has rung her - saying she feels sick all the time.
ExW and DH have a bad relationship (she'll ring and be abusive to him/us periodically) but last night she talked to him when he rang the kids and said she was likely to be sacked from her job today for drinking at work (due to be at a disciplinary but she wasn't going to turn up). She was very tearful and said she coudln't cope. Her friend rang dh this morning and told him to come down and sort everything out. He's no idea what on earth he can do. Kids obviously don't want him involved as they haven't told him anything is wrong.
Neither she nor the dsc want them to live with us. We're due a second baby in 4 weeks time. Dh is very upset and worried that his children are coping with so much at such a young age. He's tried to speak to them and said he will offer them support.
ExW is seeing her GP again today (believe she's already on AntiDs and had counselling).
What on earth do you think we could do to help?
I wonder if the kids actually would like him involved, but are afraid to ask in case they upset their mum.
What would bother me I think is that the friend rang your dh. If she is aware of how things are between them then that's quite a big thing for her to do, and I would take that as a sign that things are serious and he needs to do something.
There might be all sorts of things going on that you aren't aware of because they've been kept from you.
Drinking at work sounds like it might be quite serious - it could be going to the pub for a couple, but equally it could drinking from a bottle of vodka in the desk. I'd imagine that if it's got to the stage of being sacked then it's serious.
I think if it were us in that position I'd be suggesting to dh that he goes and offers to take the two children at least temporarily.
Have you thought about involving social services again?
It is obviously a child welfare issue if the ex has taken an OD, is drinking heavily (and may lose her job due to this), is obviously not coping...
If not then maybe the children should stay with dad for a bit so mum can get some help and support in place.
Presumably dad has PR - there is nothing stopping him making an appointment with the children's GP and expressing his concerns about the childrens welfare (this may trigger background involvement of social services/child health visitors etc).
thanks for the responses.
She works for child protection in social services. Last summer the head of child protection rang dh when she took the overdose - got personally involved in the case due to the sensitive nature re work etc. Their view then was that if the children wanted to stay with her that was ok because they were not physically at risk.
The friend has dh's number after last summer as we refused to take them back until we were sure she'd got some help. The kids begged to be returned and this friend got involved saying she would keep an eye out for them and tell us if anything went wrong again - so I agree it must be bad for her to have rung.
Drink problem - the children told us this is what her employers and GP both said last summer (we had no idea) so I suspect she may be using drink to cope.
Dh has spoken to dss tonight. Says his mum went to the GP and is feeling more hopeful that she'll get better treatment for her depression. Dss said his head of year called him in for a chat today (dh left her a message but couldn't get hold of her) and has arranged the school counsellor to speak to him and his sister. Dss said he didn't want to come to us to at all, not even for a day or so during half term next week. Doesn't want to leave his mum. Dh offered to go down and visit them but they didn't seem keen (think their mum wouldn't like it)
So difficult to know what to do for the best. No idea what happened with her work situation today. Hope to God she doesn't lose her job - no idea what would happen financially then.
The taking an od when kids on holiday with you and then phoning kids sounds very manipulative. This doesn't sound like a woman who should be in child protection as she is putting her own desires before those of her children.
I think the dad should keep in contact with the children and their school and possibly even social services. If these were my children I would make sure social services were aware of the issues, I might even get legal advice re access to children.
Can your husband talk to his ex about this?
I think if it was us in that position we'd be talking about whether it was a case of just stepping in and telling the children how it was going to be.
I think there sometimes comes a time when an adult needs to just make a decision on their behalf. They want to stay with their mum, of course they do, they are worried about her and are probably worried about her reaction should they come to you.
I think you need to weigh up whether that is worse than leaving them to cope with the stress they must be under with their mum poorly.
I think I kind of agree with Surfermum, the dc are too young to be responsible for someone with these problems and it sounds like she is using them as her crutch.
The problem is that they may blame you and DH, especially if mum does not get better or gets worse and also I don't know that you can force the issue is the dc are going to ask to stay, it would take a lot even for a court to override that.
If the friend has rung then things are bad, she said she would call if it got bad and she has so I think dh needs to go there at the very least. It seems clear the dc are not coping, I am not sure there is a way to help them cope apart from removing them.
Could dh make an appointment to see their GP and explain the situation? He may be able to support a claim that they are being put under undue stress.
I also think you should go back to social services, it is clear the problem is escalating and they are aware of it through her connection, they may have a different spin on things now than they did a while ago.
Thanks for the advice.
I totally agree she is not fit to work in child protection. She is also extremely manipulative and imo using her children as an emotional crutch. Tried not to put too much of that in the original post as I was trying to stay factual despite being furious at her for her shite parenting.
We did get legal advice last summer (the exW is a bloody solicitor!) and our solicitor said at their age the courts would very much take the children's views into account about where they wanted to stay. Unless ss thought they should be removed (which they didn't then and presumably don't now either) then a court was unlikely to support us.
They live so far away that it would involve a change of school etc, losing all their friends (which also bothers them).
We're so torn between saying we're the adults we decide and going for custody against their will and leaving them with their mum. DH is very upset because neither outcome is good. The dcs are being damaged emotionally either way
Don't presume about how ss feel now, things change and this situation is not only not getting better it is getting worse. SS may well be sat there wondering why the hec the dcs dad is not doing something!
Seriously, communicate with them, they really do appreciate people being open. Once you have their view you may have enough information to start makeing a plan of action.
It the distance that's the problem isn't it. I agree with KingC perhaps you need to talk to SS again. They said last time that the children were ok to stay as there was no physical risk - but what about the emotional one. They're clearly being affected from what you say in your op.
And who knows what their mum is saying about their dad - perhaps she is making out that he doesn't want to know or is refusing to have them.
The long summer holidays is coming too so that might give you a bit of breathing space if they can at least stay with you for that time?
Just to update you - seems you were right about ss having a different attitude now.
Since the last post dsc have told us their mum has seen doctor and got medication/treatment and everything is much more settled
Dh finally spoke to dss' head of year at school before half term to discuss what was going on and she promised to ring him back after half term.
She rang late this afternnon to say SS had got in touch with her and the kids and their mum. They have drafted in a social worker from elsewhere (not one of exw's colleagues) to do a full investigation. Apparently she had been referred by her boss and her GP and another source (possibly police who've been called to her house on more than one occasion).
This teacher told the SW that she had contact with dh who was involved with his children and SW said he'd contact dh if/when appropriate. Seems very odd to me that things are serious enough for them to investigate but they don't tell the children's father or even interview him.
Dh is evry upset now. I expected him to be relieved that someone somewhere was properly lookign in to what was going on. But he says he is worried sick about how bad it really must be for them to be involved now. Also he feels dreadful that his dc won't talk to him or accept any of his offers of help. (he does realise this is loyalty to their mum rather than anything else)
Hope to god the SW rings early next week.
Social Workers can be very cagey with info if the issue is with an adult as opposed to one of the kids... we had this problem and my heart goes out to you all. Where violence is involved, kids will try protect the parent, and will not want to leave them with the violent person. You can write to the SW putting all your concerns to them, I would also mention the overall situation being emotionally detrimental to the kids well being... children can be put on the at risk register for emotional neglect/abuse. That way you may get more information. I would also "pester" the SW on a very regular basis!!!!! Kids will clam up about bad goings on at home if they think it will get the parent in to trouble - this can also be because the parent has said to the kids, "if you tell you'll get me into trouble" and so forth.
My suggestions - write to SW with ALL concerns (focussed on the children), contact SW by phone/email very regularly, and keep in contact with the kids at least once a week - just to chat, not to interrogate them on whats going on. They may then begin to feel more comfortable in "letting go" when it gets too much for them.
We had a similar (altho not quite the same) situation with my dh and his 3DD's... It's a painful experience and all you can do is try to keep it together (yeah right ... but try is the operative word here) and be there for the kids. Don't expect them to accept offers of help - the loyalty to their mum will probably be too great. Keeping in contact with the SW behind the scenes should help you feel as tho you're trying to help.. Make sure you talk to people when you need to let off steam; having someone outside the situation can be of great comfort. There is soooo much more I could say but not ready to publish a book yet!!!
thanks Mad - some good advice there
SW still hasn't made any contact. DH is going to ring the school and see if they can give him details of who this external SW is
I agree that a parent just has to make the decision on behalf of the children sometimes. If the other parent is really struggling, why leave her to strugle with her mental health and the upbringing of children when the other parent could take over the day to day looking after of the children allowing the mother to get herself the help that she needs. Also the children won't have to watch her in these states. These are memories that the kids will have with them for the rest of their lives.
If it were mine, I would be going round there to fetch them on a temporary basis and giving as much support as I could to the other parent in the meantime by reassuring her that the kids are fine and waiting for her to get better so that they can come home.
Social services - not got 100% faith in them I am afraid. Just occasionally a well adjusted parent does know what is best for their children rather than a SW.
Also, our ss's are VERY loyal to their mum whatever the situation so it could be that your stepchildren feel protective and don't want anyone attacking her verbally or criticising her. It will be hurting them very much to see her in this state. At the end of the day they are a family unit themselves and they will all be feeling scared and threatened at the prospect of being split up.
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