Posted by fxckfeelings on October 29, 2015Share This Post
If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re frustrated with your inability to help a child in a bad living situation, you can feel as trapped and tortured as you imagine the child does. There are things you can do to help, but if you’re driven by passion, not patience and care, you might end up doing more harm than good.
Here are five steps you can take that have a good chance of getting a child to safety and keeping you out of the crosshairs.
1) Align With The Authorities
Never protect a child from neglect or abuse before first notifying a state child protective agency. It’s not just the law, it’s also your best protection against taking too much responsibility while also having no authority. If you’re working with the people who can actually make a difference, then you won’t feel like it’s all up to you.
2) Take Stock, Then Take Action
Assess your own needs and other priorities before over-committing resources, factoring in state benefits and possible legal fees. If you’re really upset, you may feel like your only choice is going after the problem with everything you’ve got, but if you’ve got limited time and resources, barreling ahead means sabotaging your own efforts.
3) Give Up The Guilt
After taking every reasonable measure, don’t let your fear of possible neglect blackmail you into assuming full responsibility if you don’t really have the time, energy and health. After sharing your concerns with the state, offer to contribute whatever caregiving you can and no more. Learn to be satisfied with your best compromise, not the best, period.
4) Avoid Exploitation
If you feel your care is being misused by a child or her parent, define standards for good behavior and enforce incentives that need to be met before you give your time. Good behavior, for those whom you shelter, includes doing work (school work, chores, a job), avoiding self-destructive behavior (drugs, bad friendships, self-harm), and not being mean. Then reward those behaviors with incentives include money, car access, and, of course, praise.
5) Advocate for Yourself
Once you’ve set limits you believe are fair and taken actions you believe are smart, don’t second-guess yourself or your choices, or appear wishy-washy. If you gain the authority of custody, use your authority fairly without getting bogged down in self-doubt or explanation. Most importantly, keep reminding yourself that you are an outsider trying to do the right thing without being sucked into chaos.