Wedding Woes

Yeah, this is odd.

Dear Prudence,

My house is at the end of a long street bordering the woods, and I garden and raise rabbits and chickens. Recently some neighborhood kids have started showing up while I’m out in the yard, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening. They’re 5 and 7 years old, and they’re polite and clean but always hungry. They never refuse food, although I’ve never had children myself, so I’m not sure if that’s unusual. They don’t belong to any of my immediate neighbors and can’t or won’t give me their mother’s phone number. If I give them a note for their mother, I never hear back. They once spent close to six hours with me while I worked in the garden. If they were older I wouldn’t worry, but my mother didn’t let me wander around that long by myself even back in the ’80s. They’re good kids, and I’m concerned that they are often alone and out of school. They don’t show any signs of abuse or neglect, other than sometimes wandering around alone on a weekday afternoon. Should I call Child Protective Services?

—Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Re: Yeah, this is odd.

  • levioosalevioosa Southern California
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
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    edited March 8
    I bet these are latch key kids. Although showing up in the morning makes me wonder. LW should call CPS. If anything, maybe there are additional resources that can be provided to the family. But a 5 and 7 year old wandering around at all times of day? That’s not safe. 

    ETF: incorrect word


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    ahoywedding
  • levioosalevioosa Southern California
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    Also LW being like “they always seem hungry but I’ve never had kids so...” Children aren’t magical beings with different biology. They’re around you for six hours. Did you get hungry? Then they’re probably hungry too. 


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    mrsconn23
  • My answer disappeared...WTF knut? 
  • Posting again?

    Prudie's answer frustrates me.  LW is correct to have concerns.  These kids are too young to be out wandering for hours.  The kids obviously know that they're not allowed trust or tell LW what's up, where they live, or any other pertinent information.  And the fact that they are hungry is a concern.  

    LW is not a charity and if she were to take the kids in for an extended period of time (more than a day), that would be kidnapping.  After so many times of them showing up and LW's attempts at obtaining further information being rebuffed by the parents, it's time for LW to take the appropriate, legal steps to ensure the kid's safety.  Just because they appear to be clean/groomed does not mean they're not being neglected in other ways. 

    The question one should always ask oneself before considering calling CPS is, “Do I have reason to believe that state intervention, including the possibility of family separation and children being put into foster care, is absolutely necessary?” In the absence of obvious signs of abuse or neglect, I think the answer here is no. That doesn’t mean you have no cause for concern, but the threshold for calling CPS is much higher than what you’ve seen so far. To whatever extent you’re able and willing, I think you should continue to be friendly with these children and offer hospitality whenever they show up in your yard. You can also ask (gently and age-appropriately) whether or not they go to school and continue to ask if you can speak to their parents. Their situation may not be ideal, but if they seem clean, relatively well-adjusted, and no more hungry than the average kid (most kids won’t say no to food), then I think continued friendly observation should be the order of the day.
  • The ages is what gets to me. Even if their parents are taking care of them properly, it just seems too young to be wandering .... :\ 
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    mrsconn23short+sassyahoywedding
  • Is Prudie on vacation and some weird intern is standing in?
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    MissKittyDangermrsconn23charlotte989875eileenrob
  • levioosa said:
    mrsconn23 said:
    Prudie's answer frustrates me.  LW is correct to have concerns.  These kids are too young to be out wandering for hours.  The kids obviously know that they're not allowed trust or tell LW what's up, where they live, or any other pertinent information.  And the fact that they are hungry is a concern. 

    LW is not a charity and if she were to take the kids in for an extended period of time (more than a day), that would be kidnapping.  After so many times of them showing up and LW's attempts at obtaining further information being rebuffed by the parents, it's time for LW to take the appropriate, legal steps to ensure the kid's safety.  Just because they appear to be clean/groomed does not mean they're not being neglected in other ways. 

    The question one should always ask oneself before considering calling CPS is, “Do I have reason to believe that state intervention, including the possibility of family separation and children being put into foster care, is absolutely necessary?” In the absence of obvious signs of abuse or neglect, I think the answer here is no. That doesn’t mean you have no cause for concern, but the threshold for calling CPS is much higher than what you’ve seen so far. To whatever extent you’re able and willing, I think you should continue to be friendly with these children and offer hospitality whenever they show up in your yard. You can also ask (gently and age-appropriately) whether or not they go to school and continue to ask if you can speak to their parents. Their situation may not be ideal, but if they seem clean, relatively well-adjusted, and no more hungry than the average kid (most kids won’t say no to food), then I think continued friendly observation should be the order of the day.
    Wtf. That’s literally the opposite of what CPS says about reporting. You are not a detective. It is not your job to investigate, nor are you qualified. It is your job to call if you suspect any type of abuse or neglect. Suspicion is literally all you need, and all they want. As a mandated reporter I can actually get in trouble if I try to do my own investigating. You might not be a mandated reporter, but doing your own investigation can cause more harm. Come on Prudie. Also, a small minority of children end up in foster homes compared to the volume of calls. Don't put that on LW. Tell her to do what is best for the kids, which is letting CPS know that two young children are wandering around, unsupervised and hungry. They’ll figure out the rest. 
    YES!  She just heaped a fuck-ton of guilt onto LW, who DOES NOT have any responsibility to these children.  We *need* more people like LW in the world, as they seem ridiculously kind, but this is NOT LW's problem. 

    And now she's put the image of these kids being ripped out of their home and put with strangers For.Ev.Er. on LW.  And that it will be all LW's fault.  What. The. Fuck?

    levioosaOliveOilsMomahoywedding
  • I first read this as the kids were walking out of the woods to LW's house. 

    But on the CPS thing; anyone can call and make a report and a removal is pretty unlikely to happen unless the kids are in serious danger. If LW has concerns she should call; CPS will investigate and see what's up. It's not necessarily a crime to let your kids play in the neighborhood and wander around, but there could be something bigger going on. LW should trust her instinct and report. If nothing is going on CPS will close the report. 
    mrsconn23southernbelle0915
  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana
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    I agree that Prudie's advice is well off the mark. For kids that age to be gone from home without the parents checking on them 6 hours at a time - no way! LW should definitely call CPS. Yes, kids are usually hungry but not all the time!

    mrsconn23short+sassy
  • I’d call CPS too.  Six hours?!  Those parents owe LW $150/day for babysitting! I’m not one of those people that calls 911 when I see a 10-yr-old walking to school by herself.  But five and seven are too young to be free to do their own thing for that many hours.
    mrsconn23short+sassycharlotte989875
  • FWIW, we have "wandering" children in our neighbourhood. However, all the parents know each other well enough to know which house each child belongs to. I've had little ones from a couple of houses down "wander" to our house when I've been out front gardening or with my son. Usually I wait to see if a parent follows, then I walk the kid home. 
    mrsconn23short+sassyeileenrobcharlotte989875
  • FWIW, we have "wandering" children in our neighbourhood. However, all the parents know each other well enough to know which house each child belongs to. I've had little ones from a couple of houses down "wander" to our house when I've been out front gardening or with my son. Usually I wait to see if a parent follows, then I walk the kid home. 
    Are the parents typically outside or at least able to see your place from theirs?
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  • The ages is what gets to me. Even if their parents are taking care of them properly, it just seems too young to be wandering .... :\ 

    Yes!!!  The ages and the times of day.

    A 10 and a 12-year-old hanging around, after schools are out.  Meh, probably wouldn't be very concerned.

    But a 5 and a 7-year-old.  At all times of the school day.  And alone outside for hours at a time with no one looking for them?  Oh, hell no!  Police and/or CPS need to be called.

    However, something else is also puzzling me.  It sounds like the LW has spent a lot of time with these children.  Not that it is her responsibility, but you'd think she could have ferreted out a lot more info about them just in casual "chit chat" in the garden conversation.  I just don't see children that young being wily enough to consistently keep identifying info away from a woman that they have probably come to be seen as a friend.

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    charlotte989875MissKittyDangersouthernbelle0915OliveOilsMom
  • FWIW, we have "wandering" children in our neighbourhood. However, all the parents know each other well enough to know which house each child belongs to. I've had little ones from a couple of houses down "wander" to our house when I've been out front gardening or with my son. Usually I wait to see if a parent follows, then I walk the kid home. 
    Are the parents typically outside or at least able to see your place from theirs?
    Yes, they just are usually with other children or have run to the back. There's usually a parent within eyesight. But, especially in the summer, most parents on our street know that other parents are out. We're a fairly closeknit neighbourhood. 
    MissKittyDanger
  • FWIW, we have "wandering" children in our neighbourhood. However, all the parents know each other well enough to know which house each child belongs to. I've had little ones from a couple of houses down "wander" to our house when I've been out front gardening or with my son. Usually I wait to see if a parent follows, then I walk the kid home. 
    Are the parents typically outside or at least able to see your place from theirs?
    Yes, they just are usually with other children or have run to the back. There's usually a parent within eyesight. But, especially in the summer, most parents on our street know that other parents are out. We're a fairly closeknit neighbourhood. 
    That's what I figured. Where I grew up was similar, and we get the same vibe from our current place.
    At our current place, all the backyard fences are low so you know if your kid is out there and you have to turn your back for a moment, someone else can see what's happening :)
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  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs
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    edited March 8
    my own niece is 6, so right in the middle of these kids.  I cannot, for a second, imagine her being away for 6 hours without my sister knowing.  YES call the cops or CPS.  You don't get put in jail or fined if you make an inquiry like this.....or do you?

  • kerbohlkerbohl
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    I feel like I would be asking to walk them home if this were me. 5 is really young, and if I've just spent 6 hours unsupervised with two children, I'd feel responsible for making sure they get home safely and while there, having a chat with their parents to figure out the situation. It might be my upbringing, but I grew up in the country, and at 7 I was definitely disappearing for several hours in the woods around my house. My brother would wander over to my grandparents' farm when he was still very, very young. My parents more or less knew where we were, but we could be miles away at times.

    The caveat here, though, is that we weren't hanging out with strangers. If we did come home and say we had been spending time with neighbours, my parents would pop by and have conversations with them to make sure everything was fine. It's really weird that these parents are not doing that, so something seems very off.

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    charlotte989875southernbelle0915
  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana
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    I think the underlying theme with everyone that says it can happen in their neighborhood or when they were children is that your parents or neighborhood parents all knew/know each other. That is how it was when I was growing up and when my children were little. The problem with LW's scenario is she has no idea who the parents of these children are or where they live AND the parents don't seem concerned since they have never shown up. That is what raises alarms to me (and the ages/time of day). Why aren't these kids in school? The 7 year old should be in first grade or kindergarten at least depending on where they live.
    short+sassyOliveOilsMom
  • I think the underlying theme with everyone that says it can happen in their neighborhood or when they were children is that your parents or neighborhood parents all knew/know each other. That is how it was when I was growing up and when my children were little. The problem with LW's scenario is she has no idea who the parents of these children are or where they live AND the parents don't seem concerned since they have never shown up. That is what raises alarms to me (and the ages/time of day). Why aren't these kids in school? The 7 year old should be in first grade or kindergarten at least depending on where they live.
    ^^^ this is why I responded the way I did at first. Up here, both kids would be in school for full days at those ages and the schools call if your child isn’t there by 10am. 
  • Ditto @kerbohl and @ILoveBeachMusic

    My parents were practicing free range parenting before it was a thing. I grew up walking to and from school when I was 6 (crossing major roads, train tracks, etc.) and playing outside solo for HOURS. But I think community meant something different back then though.....people knew each other and looked out for each other's kids/families. 

    I feel like now there's this weird "not my business" / "don't get involved" attitude by adults and kids are taught "stranger danger" about everyone (even neighbors who might be really good, helpful people. I feel like it's a recipe which results in people like this writing in to fucking Prudie instead of walking these kids home or calling the authorities just in case. 
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    charlotte989875ILoveBeachMusickimmiinthemitten
  • kimmiinthemittenkimmiinthemitten Detroit, MI
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    Ditto @kerbohl and @ILoveBeachMusic

    My parents were practicing free range parenting before it was a thing. I grew up walking to and from school when I was 6 (crossing major roads, train tracks, etc.) and playing outside solo for HOURS. But I think community meant something different back then though.....people knew each other and looked out for each other's kids/families. 

    I feel like now there's this weird "not my business" / "don't get involved" attitude by adults and kids are taught "stranger danger" about everyone (even neighbors who might be really good, helpful people. I feel like it's a recipe which results in people like this writing in to fucking Prudie instead of walking these kids home or calling the authorities just in case. 
    And in parents who call their 25 year old's boss because their adult kid didn't know how to fill out a W-4 Tax Withholding Form.
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    charlotte989875sparklepants41
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