"The signs were not subtle at all. We had a 7-year-old boy who showed up in the same clothes, was never bathed, and had no idea what to do with a toothbrush. He was always hungry and would sneak food home.
It became routine every day to help him get a shower in the special needs room, clean clothes and wash the ones he came to school in. We bought him new shoes, and he was so proud of them he wouldn't wear them outside or take them home. It was heartbreaking that the little fellow was so moved by a clean pair of sneakers.
The story was if he took anything home worth $5, his substance-abusing mom and daddy of the month would sell it.
You would think the home situation would have ended quickly. It took a little under two years to get him out and in the care of his grandfather."
"She spoke in a low voice, almost a mumble. She would say 'Sorry I won't do it again I promise' multiple times whenever she made a mistake or when someone asked to clarify what she was saying. She also flinched whenever someone got too close to her."
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"My mom is a huge softy with kids. She just has a way with them, too. Out of all the faculty and staff at the school, she was usually the most popular. Kids would try to fake stomach aches and injuries just so they could go to the office and spend time with Mrs. X. She wasn't afraid of getting personal. She was known to give kids a ride home if their parents forgot to get them, and she would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every night to bring to school the next day for the kids whose parents were too poor or too selfish to put money in their lunch account.
One year, my mom noticed that a first grader from school moved into the house across the street from us. The weather got colder, but every day this little boy would walk to school alone with just a T-shirt or a couple shirts layered, usually dirty. So my mom goes into my brothers' old clothes and picks out a coat for him, gives it to him, and the kid is ecstatic. For a couple days, he walked to school with his coat, then suddenly back to the T-shirt. The little boy told my mom that his mom had to sell the coat to buy 'medicine' so she wouldn't get sick. So my mom gets out another old coat. Lasted about a week, the same thing. Except now, every couple of days, the little boy is sent over to our house to beg money from my mom in order to buy 'medicine' for his sick mother.
It was terrible. CPS was already involved with the family. My mom felt helpless. On the one hand, we knew that anything my mom gave to this boy would be sold for illegal stuff. And anything she did for him was taken advantage of by the mother, to try to get more of the stuff. My mom started giving him a coat on the way to school and then having him drop it off at our house before returning home. After a couple weeks of that, the boy and his mom were evicted from the house and moved out of the school district, so we don't know what happened to them.
I would love to say that that situation was completely unique and something like that only happened once, but my mom had multiple kids like that every year that she would try to help. Substance-addicted parents are the worst."
"I was over a group of kindergartners in an afterschool program.
Sweetest little blonde haired, blue eyed girl.
She had a serious problem with wetting herself, which can be a sign of abuse. Her clothes were always filthy. Her hair was frequently unbrushed. Her nails would grow too long and constantly be disgusting.
She would attach herself to any adult who showed her kindness. She constantly gave me hugs, and it was heart-wrenching that I was not allowed to return them. She told me that she wished I was her mommy and asked repeatedly to come home with me.
Her fourth-grade brother was mature for his age. He looked out for her almost like a father figure. But, he was still a kid. He and his older brother were playing with fireworks, unsupervised, and they tried to make a mega firework. They were both seriously injured.
The mother rarely came to scheduled meetings. When she did, she was obviously out of it and barely acknowledged her children.
I called and reported her to child services. I know others did as well. The kids were never taken away.
I still think about her all the time. Saying goodbye to her at the end of each day and making her go home was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I would go home and cry. I had to fight the overwhelming desire to just put her in my car and take her off for somewhere new, where I could show her what a childhood is supposed to look like.
I did everything I could, within the constraints of my job, to let her know that she is loved and worth so much. I tried to build up confidence in her. I still think about her all the time. I hope she's in a better situation.
They had a wonderful aunt who was fighting for custody of them and had been for years. You could always tell after the little girl had been with her aunt. She came back standing a little taller, clean and in pretty, new clothes."
"A few years ago when I was teaching fifth grade, I also ran the afterschool Girl Scouts Juniors meetings. Most of the scouts were also in my class, so I got to know the girls pretty well. I started to suspect that this one girl was not being cared for at home when I couldn't get her scout survey, and the mother was coming later and later picking the child up from school and scouts. A lot of kids don't bring back their forms, and a lot of kids don't get picked up from school and activities right on time, but this was different. The kid seemed really stressed out suddenly, and she was withdrawing.
So, one day, the mom was over an hour late to pick her up. As a scout leader, I have permission slips that say I can transport the kiddos in my car. I got another adult to ride with me, and we went to drop the kid off at her house.
What a zoo. The senile grandmother was the only one home. She insisted we come in and sit and watch a novella with her. I didn't want to leave the kid without a clear-headed adult around, so I stayed. Grandma gave me a banana and raw potato to eat. The little girl said, 'She always does that,' and shrugged.
When the mom finally did show up, she was covered in flop sweat. Her makeup was running down her face, and she was wasted off her butt. Grandma ran to her, also with a potato and banana. Wasted mom yelled at Grandma for 'embarrassing' her. She then turned her attention to me, hugged me, cried, and said I was the, 'only good person,' she knew. She then yelled at the little girl for making me bring her home when she should have, 'figured it out.' When I pointed out that, legally, I couldn't just let the kid walk home if her dismissal plan says a parent will pick her up. Wasted mom smiled at me, but ushered me out the door. I heard yelling as soon as the door shut.
I went out onto the lawn and called CPS. No one there had any ability to take care of the child. I didn't want to leave, but I also didn't want the mom to see me out there, get wise, and take it out more on the child.
The next day, the kid was pulled out of class to be interviewed. Nothing happened. She told me that woman who interviewed her said, 'You don't look so bad off. I don't see any bruises.'
We went camping and, thanks to yet another home visit to get the camping forms signed, the little girl went with us. We were supposed to meet at the school and leave from there. Most parents dropped their kid off, kissed them, said they'd miss them. This girl showed up with a sheepish look on her face and no parent in sight. Her mom sent her with a bag of dirty laundry and a note. It instructed us to stop at a laundromat on the way to the campsite because the child had no clean clothes. I looked in the bag, and it was a collection of crusty underpants that looked like they'd been used to wipe up spills and such. So disgusting. There were also random things in the bag like stale corn chips and a maxi pad wrapper. The little girl also told me she was hungry because she'd only eaten school lunch this week and nothing else.
I cursed while stopping at a laundromat. I made yet another seemingly-worthless phone call to CPS. We went to Walmart and the other scout leader took the rest of the troop to pick out bandanas while I bought her some underpants, clothes, and a pair of shoes that didn't have holes in them.
She had a good time on the camping trip, even though she had to wear a tank top and shorts to swim since I couldn't find a bathing suit for her on such short notice.
However, when we returned, no one came to pick her up from the school. I drove her home, and I could hear music blaring from her house. She told me her grandma had been taken to an old folks' home, so her mom was probably having another 'party.' The door was locked, but her mom was obviously home. We knocked. Nothing.
Then, the loud intimate noises started. I put the kid in the car. We went to McDonald's. I called the mom and left a message that since no one picked her up, I was taking her to the police station.
Nothing came of that even. The cops took her; I felt terrible. She stayed overnight in protective care, but she was back to her mom's.
Eventually, wasted mom had a couple men move in. The little girl was kicked out of her room and moved into a closet-like area that had a door that didn't lock and lead to the outside. The child witnessed the mom performing intimate acts on the men who moved in. I kept calling, the little girl herself called, and other staff members at the school called.
Finally, the child was taken out of the home for a while.
She was returned to her mother when she was in sixth grade. A month later, she 'accidentally' discharged another student's pepper spray that was hanging off her backpack and was sent to an alternative school where the kids stay overnight during the week. Personally, I think it was a cry for help.
I think about this kid a lot. I wish I could have done more."
"I knew something was up when my favorite student, who was four years old at the time, refused to participate in our group activity, even though he was excited by the activities and would have enjoyed them. When pressed, he said it was because 'I'm bad. I'm bad at everything. I'll ruin it for my friends. I always ruin everything.'
We had to press to get him to tell us his mom/dad had said that about him. I was 16 years old and a student-teacher. We weren't supposed to give the kids any more than a quick hug, but I just held onto him while he sniffled and tried not to cry. It broke my heart. I reported it to the teacher in charge (she was also my program mentor), and she, in turn, reported it to CPS. A couple months later, I noticed a change in his behavior. I asked the teacher about it, and she confided in me that the kid had been placed with his grandparents over concerns of verbal abuse and neglect.
As a mom, I look back on that experience and still cry. That little boy was a bright, cheerful, silly, wonderful little kid. And his parents tried to destroy that. I can't imagine feeling so crappy about yourself that you would need to destroy the well-being of a 4-year-old."
"I gave my students an assignment to write about 'I feel because __.'
One student gave me 'I feel sad because my mother hits me' and a drawing of legs with welts from a stick.
I brought it up to my co-teacher, but this was in Korea, and there are many reasons why it wasn't followed up on."
"Parent conferences. This kid who has low self-esteem and has made vague mention that she is her mom's least favorite child. We spent the whole conference talking about how great this kid is, while the mom shot down every positive thing we said.
Us: 'Your kid has an amazing attitude when she struggles. She never gives up.'
Parent: 'Are you sure? She's just a lazy little witch at home. She also asked if there was anything the kid had done wrong so we could punish her. And mentioned that she'd understand if we dislike her kid because the only thing the kid is good for is babysitting younger siblings.'
When the parent left, we sat there in silence for a few minutes, stunned. We spent the rest of the year trying to build this kid up. I contacted a Child Services contact who basically said emotional abuse is nearly impossible to establish."
"I worked a before and after school day-care program through a park district for six years. We watched kids from kindergarten through fifth grade, usually with the same kids every day. One of the other counselors I worked with, a girl, noticed that a little third-grade girl who came in every day would touch herself in her private area, always rearrange her clothes to kind of pad herself, and was initially very touchy with me and other male counselors. By touchy, I don't mean anything blatantly inappropriate. She would try to hold hands and climb on your back like an excitable third grader does. Very innocent in the right light, but with her, it was just excessive. I honestly wouldn't have noticed it if it wasn't for the girl I worked with, I was a lot younger at the time and never really thought anything of it.
The thing that eventually got me was when her dad would come pick her up to go home. She would turn pale, drop everything that she was doing, and walk slowly and quietly to get her bag and walk away with the dad. He was a sleazy salesman type, who even a teacher made a comment to me about. We eventually talked to the school guidance counselor about our concerns and she took it from there. Honestly not sure what happened after that but I hope she's doing ok."
"I'm a foreign English teacher working in South Korea.
I taught a little girl from the time she was in third grade through the sixth grade. From the beginning, it was obvious that she was malnourished and unloved at home. She was half the size of the other kids, always dirty, constantly starving, and desperate for love. The Korean teachers all brushed it off that her dad was out of the picture, her mom was poor, and that her mom was also battling cancer.
But to me, what made it obvious was that her two older sisters were well cared for and happy. But they wouldn't so much as look at their younger sister. They were brainwashed against her.
I would say it was apparent things were out of control when the little girl's hair started falling out in clumps, and the hair that didn't fall out turned white at the roots. This is a 10-year-old I'm talking about.
I did eventually go against my school's explicit instruction and report it, but Korea has a terrible system for child abuse, and she's still living in that home. I think about her every day."
"I taught history and social studies classes at a middle school for about 20 years. I retired two years ago.
In my eighth-grade geography class, there was a little blonde boy we'll call Jack (not his real name). Jack wasn't a problem student, but he was often too quiet and failed to participate in class. He stood out as one of those loner types, but I felt there was something different about him. He'd come in with black eyes, smoke burns up and down his arms, bruises, and open sores. A lot of children were accident-prone, but the smoke burns gave it away as obvious abuse.
Eventually, I decided to report it, but I wanted to see if he'd tell me anything first. I pulled him aside after class one morning and asked why he was always covered in injuries and told him that if anyone was hurting him, it was safe to tell.
He was being violated by his single father with drinking problems and would get a hot smoke pressed into his arm every time he made noise during it. The guy also liked to beat the snot out of him constantly for no reason other than that he was a sick creep.
I reported it. He disappeared from class a few days later, and I never saw him or found out anything."
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"I had a student who would always smell strongly of cat urine. Her clothes, her backpack, everything. We reported it consistently and when it was finally investigated, CPS discovered she was living in a hoarder situation. Garbage everywhere, countless cats, the only clean thing was her room. That is one that broke my heart because, in the midst of everything, she was trying so hard. Another time, a girl asked me to come into the copy room with her, lifted up the back of her shirt and showed me the mark of the belt buckle from where her dad hit her. It was the first time. She was a very bright, pretty girl and you would never have suspected because she always held it together.
There are more, but those are two that particularly stick with me. I always err on the extreme side of caution when I think anything is not quite right with a student because you never know what situation they've got at home."
"I've been involved with CPS three times working with thousands of kids. Many of my jobs had the training to recognize signs of abuse.
The first was when I was working for a children's theater. This child came straight from school and her mother was consistently late picking her up. They were wealthy, but her clothes were dirty and her hair was always matted. She was terrified of changing in front of people to get into costumes and would scream if you touched her without warning (like tapping her shoulder).
The second was when I was working with non-verbal boys with autism. My boss and I were helping one of them go to the bathroom and there were bruises everywhere. This is pretty common with this population.
The third was my camper at sleepaway camp. She was underweight and convinced she was allergic to every food. She constantly had nightmares about her mother trying to kill her. Eventually, she started talking about how her mother would lock her in her room or would start to talk about her mother's controlling behaviors and then would stop herself and say 'My mother will know if I talk about that.' I called CPS even though the camp actively discouraged me and even threatened my job. Her other parent eventually got custody."