The Day I Called the Department of Children and Family Services

One of my colleagues here at ChicagoNow, wrote a piece the other day entitled,  When does spanking go too far?  I found myself remembering what happened to me in a similar situation nearly 20 years ago the day I called the Department of Children and Family Services.

A woman with two young boys around 3 and 5 years old moved in next door to us.  We were friendly towards each other.  I gave the boys some toys that belonged to my sons, but apparently that wasn't quite enough.  One day I found both boys in our yard helping themselves to my children's toys.  I asked them to leave and all I got was a blank look.  I asked them their names and got the same look.

I got their mother and she came and got them.  Since her sons wouldn't talk to me, I asked her their names and ages.  It wasn't that they couldn't talk to me, it was because they didn't know how.  They had their own little language that they used to communicate to her and each other.

My husband was the one who noticed the men coming at night.  Different men.  Never the same one twice.  He was also the one who first noticed the social worker who came periodically.

The social worker introduced herself to us and whenever we saw her she was very friendly and all smiles.  We thought everything was under control.

And then one Sunday, it all blew up.

My husband is an early riser and we live on a busy street.  He heard kids laughing and when he looked outside he was horrified to find those two little boys running in the middle of the street naked!

He ran out to get them, but he had a hard time because they wouldn't listen.  He ran up the stairs to get their mother.  The door was slightly ajar.  He pushed it a little more and called out to her.  That's when he saw her.

She was either sleeping or passed out spread eagle on the sofa bed in just a bra and panties.  Cigarette butts lined the floor like a carpet and there were empty bottles of liquor.  He smelled the gas and ran down the stairs yelling for me to call 911.

As I did, he grabbed the kids (finally) and we waited for the fire department.  When they arrived they went into the house and woke the mother up.  The boys had turned on the stove and that's why the smell of gas was permeating through the whole apartment.  They checked the lines just to make sure.

When the mother came to her senses she went into a rage.  At me.  By this time the police had arrived and she was in a full screaming rant.  It was MY fault her children were outside naked, it was MY fault they turned on the gas, I had no business calling the police or the fire department and she wasn't going to let ME take her kids away from her!

I stood in shock.  First, because of her nonsensical outburst and second, because the woman police officer enthusiastically agreed with her!  Her male partner made no comment.

As things calmed down, one of the fire fighters came up to me and said soothingly, "You did the right thing."  It was of little comfort.

The next morning I called DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services).  Though I remained anonymous, we were the only neighbors that were involved.  The mother knew exactly who called them.

After the investigation, DCFS called me back.  The social worker acknowledged the children couldn't speak and were way behind both mentally and physically in their development.  DCFS didn't want to take the boys from their mother, as there were no relatives that they could go to.

The solution?  They found the family another place to live.  The original social worker who was so friendly towards us, had no words for us on moving day.  We never saw any of them again.

Would I do it again?  Yes.  I Hate My Developer's post reminded me of those two little boys.  They would be in their early twenties now.

If they're still alive.

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