How well do you know your neighbors? Would you know if seven separate families lived in one home? Would you know if they tied their children to beds during naptime? Would you be totally caught off guard if 11 children were removed by Child Protective Services from a home on your street? It happened in Dayton, Texas, and neighbors were surprised.
I'm a nosy neighbor, I'll admit it. I know every car that comes and goes on our dead-end, private street. If something looks suspicious, I'll take down the license plate. If you try to run drugs or I suspect you of child abuse, I will make the appropriate calls. I have done it and I would do it again. Not just because I want a calm, quiet street for my own family, but because I feel that when children are involved, we should all be paying attention.
I'm not saying that we need to start calling CPS on our neighbors when they yell at their children for not coming inside for dinner the first three times they were called. I'm not saying we need to call the police just because eight cars are sitting in the neighbor's driveway. I am saying that not noticing something as grievous as what is reported to have happened in Dayton is letting down the children, our future.
It's not just the neighbors here who didn't seem to be as concerned. The home in question is reported to have had other calls to CPS on this address over the years. Police were called by a neighbor with a noise report. A man claiming to be a father of one of the children in the home says he "didn't see anything wrong with the house" on a visit. There were children not -- perhaps never -- enrolled in school. There was a stolen car; there were teenage runaways. Then there's the widely reported fact that a sex offender used the home as his address. This looks like system fail after system fail after system fail.
And, of course, there are the ten adults in this home who, according to the report by the police and Child Protective Services, saw nothing wrong with any of what they were doing.
That, of course, is the main problem: people who see nothing wrong with tying a child to a bed during naptime. The blame, the fault, the whole mess belongs on the heads of these individuals who, if the charges are true, didn't cherish these children, didn't parent these children. They should be responsible and they should pay the consequences. They're probably lucky that the legal system is in charge of what happens to them, because I'm sure a number of people who champion for children would rather see these adults tied to beds.
But I suspect there are other people who are feeling that they failed these children -- for not noticing, for not reporting, for not taking reports seriously, for not following up properly, for not putting children first. I'm sure there are some heavy hearts and consciences, some people wondering if they did all they could, if they should have done more. I hope they're able to forgive themselves -- but I also hope that they won't hesitate if, God forbid, something like this crosses their paths again.
Would you have noticed? Would you have called? Or do you take the path of "well, it's not my business," when it comes to neighbors and their families? Where's the line and how should we toe it?
Photo Credit: nathanrussell.
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