Tonight I called DCFS on one of my daughter’s friend’s parents. I’m not sure if I did the right thing, or, more accurately, I’m not sure if it will actually help.

Some background, Reagan has been friends with the child, “Venus,” since kindergarten; Venus is a smart girl, funny and vivacious, however, she does have a tendency to take offense easily and to be pretty emotional about things. Unfortunately, Reagan has these same characteristics and it seems they are either getting along famously or having huge dust-ups.

This last summer was particularly rocky in regards to their friendship and, early in the school year, Venus’s mom decided she wouldn’t let her be friends with Reagan. (Background to the background, whenever Reagan and Venus have had arguments, the mom, Carrie, has blamed it 100% Reagan. Once, she even swore at her on the phone, making me question the mother’s mental health; I can understand being protective, but that’s completely overboard. Oh, and I promise, it’s never been a case of my daughter being viscious, just normal grade and middle school spats.)

I try to stay out of such disagreements, only meddling to remind my child “Don’t gossip.” “Own up to your part in any altercation.” “Be kind,” etc… Nevertheless, I was secretly relieved that Venus and Reagan seemed to be growing apart. The Carrie related drama had just gotten to be too much over the last few years and had caused my daughter quite a lot of heartache.

I was surprised, when, earlier this week, Reagan asked if Venus could spend the night. I said yes, and forgot about it until today. Chris and I went into Peoria, and upon arriving home, Venus was at the house.

The girls were getting along well, planning on watching a “Project Runway” marathon this evening and doing some baking.

Then the phone rang.

It was Venus’s mom.

Venus had lied and said she was at another girl’s house. Carrie was understandably upset, having called the other house only to find out her daughter was not there, and no one knew where Venus was. She called around, and found her at our house.

I felt for her, I think almost every parent has had that heart stopping feeling of “OMG, where is my child?” It’s awful. Plus, I’d be really, really pissed off that my child had lied to me.

Carrie asked if we could bring Venus home. I offered to have Chris take her in about an hour when he and Taylor left for the Bradley game and she acquiesced.

I told Venus to get ready and a little later she and Reagan approached me in the kitchen. Venus was crying and said, hesitatingly:

“I’m not scared of getting yelled at or getting grounded; I’m scared of my mom. Last night she was mad at me and put her arms around my neck and…” (Venus gestured with her hands around her neck like she was choking.)

Oh, shit.

I asked if Carrie had choked or hit her before and she said yes, which made some things Reagan had said previously click, in that, “Oh, my gosh, how could I have not seen it” way.

I asked what she thought would be the right thing to do.

(I know, I know, it seems silly to ask a child such a thing, but I was just dumbfounded, upset, and horrified for Venus, who I do not doubt is telling the truth and seemed honestly terrified of her mother.)

She said she has thought about calling DCFS for a long time but didn’t know the number.

I asked if she would like me to call and she said, yes, please. So I did.

Was it the right thing? I don’t know.

On paper, in terms of black and white, it was, because I don’t doubt Venus. On the other hand, will it do any good?

There are so many gray areas. She had no visible marks. It’s her word against her mother’s. The report-er (me) has had problems with the mother in the past. Venus had just done something really wrong in lying to her mother, so will they take her word?

And, if they do believe Venus, what will the consequences to her mother and her *family be?

*There isn’t a dad in the home, just Carrie, Venus, a new baby, a baby daddy and his two kids that visit on the weekends.


9 Responses to “DCFS”

  1. Rixblix Says:

    Ohhh….I feel for you. I’m one of those “mandatory reporters” because of my profession. I’m in the position of being prosecuted if I suspect an issue and don’t report it. As such, I’ve had to make that same call 3 times. It sucks. All you can do is report exactly what you know. I know that feeling of wishing you could undial the phone. You did absolutely the right thing. DCFS is often villified and accused for over or under reacting, but in the vast majority of cases, that agency can provide help to the family.

    You did the right thing.

    Someday I’ll tell you about my experiences in having to make that call. You’re doing the right thing.

  2. Billy Dennis Says:

    I’m a certified sunstitute teacher. Or, at least I was till I let my certification lapse. I was one of those mandatory reporters. I would have called this one in even if I had NOT been a mandatory reporter. You made the right call.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    Rix and Billy,
    Thanks so much, it helps to know that people with experience in these matters think I did the right thing.

  4. Ms. PH Says:

    I have been a mandatory reporter in the past and still take that very seriously. I have made that call also and it kept me up for nights on end. (I have also called the elder abuse hotline, which was just as hard.) I think Rix is right – DCFS will usually handle the matter very well and investigate if needed.

  5. diane vespa Says:

    and it would be a far worse situation if you did NOT call and then serious harm came to Venus at the hands of her Mother. Now, no matter what the outcome you can feel you did the best you could under the circumstances.

  6. jenjw4 Says:

    Yes, I think it was the right thing, despite my doubts that it would help the situation.

    DCFS did a home visit and are supposed to come to school one day to interview Venus (I’m thinking so she would be out of the influence of her mother) but haven’t yet.

    Unfortunately, Venus has told Reagan she is going to lie, because she is afraid they will take her baby brother away if she tells the truth. (Gosh, that makes me so sad for her, that she feels like that that is on her head) and she has asked Reagan to lie, too. Reagan told her no. (But they wouldn’t interview Reagan anyway, but I’m still glad that she would do the right thing, if asked, even though her friend would be upset with her.)

  7. diane vespa Says:

    I am sure that DCFS has experience with kids “lying” to protect their family so let’s hope they have some techniques up their sleeves to circumvent that tendency.

  8. reno Says:

    Any update on this yet?

  9. keep passing the open windows » Blog Archive » Unintended consequences Says:

    […] see, there is a mom, “Carrie,” that hates me. And trust me, she’s loony. A recent example, she told her daughter, Venus, that she “can’t invite any of those […]

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