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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

11 Children Removed from Home in Texas – How Well Do You Know Your Neighbors?

There is a news report from Dayton, Texas where CPS came in and removed 11 children, some tied to beds, from their home. The ages ranged from 5 months to 11 years. They were not attending school, were never outside playing and were obviously living in an overcrowded and unhealthy environment.

There were 10 adults living there as well and none of these adults saw anything wrong with the way these children were living. And CPS had been out there before. Why did it take so long for them to discover this and take action? I’m sure there are many details we are not aware of.

The neighbors stated they were shocked to learn that there were even any children living there, let alone that many and who were obviously being mistreated. Some neighbors said, though they noticed some odd behaviors, they never knew what was really going on.

I find that sad and a little shocking. It would be hard to hide that many children and that many adults unless the neighbors constantly kept their heads down and refused to even be a little curious about their secretive neighbors. But we are now living in a “keep-to-ourselves” society.

I know in our neighborhood we mostly all keep to ourselves. Some of the older kids play together, but you rarely see any adults stopping to talk and there are some families who never interact with the other families at all.

We do occasionally stop and exchange pleasantries with some neighbors if we are out walking and we do know most of the kids names. Most all of us wave to each other as we drive by, but I have only been in one other house on this street and just briefly and I think only one neighbor has ever been in ours - once.

We are a busy family neighborhood and there have been some past problems between neighbors so that may contribute to the lack of involvement with each other. We haven’t had many problems ourselves, but there have been a few nasty disagreements between other neighbors. Because we do not wish to have those same problems with the neighbors ourselves, we have decided to stay out of it, not choose sides and remain private as politely as we can.

There is one large, extended family that has several kids who are rarely out playing, but it appears they are always coming home from school, then right back out to what I assume are extracurricular activities. Yes, it’s a little odd and I don’t care for how the children are constantly screamed at when they are out, but is it enough for us to call CPS? I would have to say hesitantly, no.

There is also a single mother on our street who will not speak to you even if you greet her and her children are never allowed to play with the other children. Why is she so secretive?

It is of course, our responsibility to report obvious child abuse. But what is obvious? I’m sure those neighbors in Texas are now thinking back to some odd circumstances they witnessed where things are more clearer now and wished they had called someone sooner.

I have to admit, because we tend to keep to ourselves we don’t really know what’s going on in other homes. Our child is too young to play with most of the children around here, so I couldn’t tell you much about those children and their families.

Now I know there are still neighborhoods where the residents still live and interact well, but I have noticed an ever increasing amount of people who state they really don’t know their neighbors.

How well do you know your neighbors? Do you think they are as normal as you are or do you think they have a dark side? Do you think they mistreat their children? These are some serious questions, but ones that we need to ask ourselves. Would you know if a child on your street was being mistreated? Would you have the guts to make that call if you did?

And what if you made a mistake and called CPS on a good family whose child really did fall off his bike and was not being abused? That missed diagnosis on your part could tear a good family apart and cause an untold amount of emotional damage.

There are so many grey areas that make it so hard to know what to do if you even notice anything to begin with.

It’s a sad fact that our lifestyle has caused many neighborhoods to not gel well and as we remain isolated, we are not only short changing our children on the experience of growing up with other families, but due to our lack of involvement with each other, we may be letting down the children who aren’t so fortunate.

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