This is more a rant, though if someone has some good advice or encouragement it would be well received.
Every time I collect my boy for contact, he is filthy. He''s 3 years old, and he hasn''t had a bath any time recently. His clothes are dirty, too small, un-ironed and sometimes have holes in.
The last time he came he had dirt all up his arms and last nights tea all over his face (it was orange pasta sauce, I''m presuming it wasn''t breakfast!).
The worst thing is the smell. When his mother opens the door, the smell in the house is disgusting. It smells like old grease, like everything they eat is deep fried. It''s disgusting, and my son''s clothes, hair and skin smell exactly the same.
Usually the first thing that I do is strip off his clothing and put him in fresh clothes the second I get home because I can''t stand the smell.
I spoke to a solicitor about the state of the house that he''s living in. The solicitor told me that Social Services wouldn''t care if I reported it, that they have bigger fish to fry. She said that there have been cases where Social Services have gone in to a house to find no sheets on the bed and kids living in filth and not done anything. It''s pretty disheartening.
When I went to court last there was talk of Cafcass doing an observed contact. I can only hope that they do so that they can see the state he is in when I pick him up.
I know it sounds like a trivial thing (in comparison to what some kids go through at least) but I worry that it will cause him to be bullied at school. I remember ''the smelly kid'' in school, and he wasn''t anyone''s friend! I don''t want that to be my kids.
The threshold for the authorities involvement is when someone''s actions have caused a child to suffer "significant harm" to their health or development. Neglect (not giving children enough to eat, ignoring them, not playing or talking with them or not making sure that they are safe) may cause significant harm. Evidence of neglect includes being slow to learn to walk and talk, passiveness, eating problems and slow growth, difficulty in relationships, low self esteem and problems with concentration. Without evidence like this your solicitor is correct Social Services are unlikely to intervene.
If you have Parental Responsibility you are entitled to information about your son''s health and education and my suggestion would be to build a relationship with doctors and school so that you aware of any problems with your son''s health and development.
The only one of those things that he is displaying is difficulties with speech. He is 3 years old and cannot put 2 words together (I mean literally, he can say a few words, but does not put them together. i.e. He can say ''yes'' and ''please'' but does not say ''yes please'' no matter how you encourage him).
I have seen other children his age, and you can have a basic conversation with them, but he cannot.
He also cannot make certain sounds (s, t, g, l and many others). His communication is not at the level I would expect for his age. I thought that he would need a speech therapist, and was planning to book an appointment at his GP when in my next contact time to ask for a referral. Just undecided about whether I should tell the ex before or after. If I thought we could sit in a room together I would invite her along.
My friend works in a nursery. She said that if a child was being brought in smelling as he does, and in the poor quality clothing that she sends him in, they would have no choice but to report it to Social Services as possible neglect.
It sucks that I feel powerless to do anything about it. Perhaps I am just blowing it out of proportion. After all, if he was living with an Indian family then he would turn up smelling of spices. I don''t think I can really raise any point with Social Services based on the way they cook their food.
Just to point out, when my stbxh went through an observed contact with CAFCASS with his first wife it was done in a cafcass building, not at either home so if this is how yours plays out it may not necessarily bring your issues to light!
How often do you have your son? Maybe you can take on the responsibility of giving him a regular bath and teaching him about hygiene ie regular washes, teeth cleaning etc. Unfortunately there isnt much more you can do.
I personally cant imagine putting my child in that situation, and went through a similar situation with my stbxh first child. We always made sure we had clean clothes that fit properly available to her when she came to visit. I guess thats all you can do but i hope you have raised your concerns with cafcass too. Nit sure if or how they would act upon it but it needs to be mentioned IMO.
In terms of speech etc i wouldnt worry too much at this age. Does your son go to nursery? Speech often progresses when they are around children on a regular basis. My daughters school highlighted what they thought to be a speech problem in the first couple of months of reception. I went to my doctors for a referral and was told i''d have to go through nose, throat and ear etc. I am still waiting now 18 months later. If you have a local sure start get in touch with them. They offer speech therapist ''drop in'' sessions which i took my daughter along to and they said she was perfectly on track for her age. I had to take my daughter out of school early for the session though so not sure how you would get around your ex in those circumstances. See what you can find out about it all and go from there.
Thanks for your reply. I didn''t know that about observed contact.
In past dealings with Cafcass (unconnected to this issue) they visited the houses. That would be a positive for me.
Your advice is good. I have him once a week, either Friday to Saturday or Friday to Sunday. I do make sure that he has a bath and brushes his teeth when he''s with me. He loves brushing his teeth, I think because he likes to eat the tooth paste! He gets extremely excited over having a bath. These lead me to think that perhaps this isn''t a nightly occurrence.
At 3, he''s a little young to be actively teaching about hygiene. I guess it will be more a passive reinforcement of good hygiene behaviour, and making sure he does the necessaries when he''s with me. Even so, it won''t be any time soon that he has the control over his hygiene to stop himself smelling.
Still waiting to be assigned a Cafcass officer. We went through the preliminary report, so I could contact that officer. Based on a previous concern, here''s the chain of events I expect:
I tell Cafcass my concern.
Cafcass tell me to call Social Services
Social Services tell me they''ll put it on file but can''t do anything else.
Some time down the line, ex finds out I''ve reported my concerns to SS, causing hatred, difficulties and relationship damage.
I had hoped that if he got referred to speech therapy that I could tell her and that she would then take him. There is a Sure Start centre 5 minutes away from my house but they don''t run anything useful on a Friday, and nothing about speech any time in the week. He''s not in nursery, ex removed him when she moved house and now doesn''t work. He starts school nursery in September though.
That might be the case for you. Come to think of it there were other ''issues'' with my stbxh and his first wife which may be why it was done in a CAFCASS building rather than the home!
Obviously teaching about hygiene verbally would be a no no but maybe make a big song and dance out of doing it so that its something your son would want to do at home when your not around. Even cold water would be better than no water! My daughter has face wipes left in the bathroom for after meals etc as she can manage them herself which she likes to do!
As for contacting social services i understand your concerns. And from what i have been told they announce when they are going to turn up (old neighbour spent 3 days cleaning her house etc before they visited) which doesnt help at all. In addition to this my stbxh''s cousin has refused to let them in before now and they just gave up!! If those are the roads they take there probably isnt much point in winding up your ex by doing it as nothing will come of it. As your friend said the nursery and later on school will probably become involved which will give the issue more weight and hopefully bring around changes. In the meantime it seems your son has at least one good parent to be there for him and give him the support he needs.
Also, not sure if you or your ex are aware but children are entitled to 15 hours free childcare from the term after they turn 3. I''m pretty sure this is nationwide and could possibly help your sons speech.
a) speech - two out of three of my children have had diagnosed speech delays. It is common in boys and can be dealt with by a speech therapist. Whilst of course speech problems can be a symptom of poor parenting, they are also ''one of those naturally occuring things'' which happen - in our case, we seem to have a genetic issue as my children''s paternal cousin also had serious speech issues and how has a diagnosis of Asbergers and my eldest (who most definately doesn''t have speech issues!) is also dyspraxic and dyslexic and all these things are in the same cluster of ''issues''. Your health visitor can make a referral, as would the GP (as you have pointed out). You need to do this immediately - there is generally a high demand for speech therapy. My middle child was diagnosed as highest priority and he waited 18 months for an appointment (I went private in the end).
b) bathing - it is not necessary to bath a child of 3 on a nightly basis. Some parents will, some won''t. I don''t ''cos I don''t have the time and frankly, with the cost of everything these days and my 38 year old horribly inefficient boiler, I think twice before heating up the water. Doesn''t mean they aren''t being washed daily. And the youngest (who is nearly 3) gets very excited about things like teeth brushing and water generally - I think you''ll find it''s an age thing as much as anything else.
c) clothing is a matter of taste and money, is it not? Poor quality to clothing to some is anything that isn''t designer. To others, Primark is the height of sophistication. It all depends on taste and budget. You need to be very careful with your wording on this issue - I aspire to be able to shop in places like Next ''cos all I can afford is the supermarkets these days - are you going to report me to Social Services for my poorer quality clothing?!!! I also purchase what I can second hand - ebay, car boots, charity shops. Is that a problem and a symptom of neglect or is that me being sensible with the money that I have (I have to find the money for the speech therapy from somewhere!).
I can see that you are genuinely worried and that you suspect there is a genuine problem so please don''t think I''m trying to gloss over the issues. What I have tried to do is present a different perspective on what you have said.
As a final note, did your ex live like this when you lived with her? did you accept it as reasonable then? if not, has anything changed? is she depressed or struggling to cope financially? is a new partner abusing her? is there any help you might be able to offer her in the guise of ''in the best interests of our child'' without actually making threats of Social Services or court action?