Would you intervene?

Bit of healthy (friendly, please lay-deees!) debate for a Tuesday night, prompted by the OMG- sunburned baby thread.

If you saw parents acting irresponsibly in a manner that you felt was endangering their baby or child, would you intervene? How serious would it have to be for you to butt in? Or do you think it's nobody else's business how people raise their children, no matter how damaging that parenting might be?

Outside of that crisis situation, would you report somebody to social services if you felt their children were at risk from ongoing poor parenting?

I would, if I had been on that beach and seen that baby burning, I would have said something, I would have called the police if necessary (so they could take emergency steps to protect the baby's welfare if the parents wouldn't take action). I have reported someone to social services, and action was taken - the children were not removed but I think there was quite a lot of intervention, however as a result the children seem safer and happier, and I feel it was justifiable meddling.

What do you think?


  • Yes I would have intervened. Hubby has worried about things kicking off when I have 'stuck my nose in' and intervened in something that's nothing to do with me before. BUT if a child was at risk then yes I would definitely have had to do something.
    I agree with your point on sterilising, some people just shouldn't be allowed to reproduce!!
  • I have to admit I wouldn't. It kills me to say it. But I am not an especially strong person and hate confrontation.

    I would (and have once in the past) contact the police / social services though.

    Not really sure I can add much more - I don't like myself for feeling this way but admire anyone who could do it.

  • This is a tricky one. Us British often, although not always, seem to stand back for fear of being critical of others! The sunburned baby story (I only heard it on the 5pm news on my way home from work) actually bought a tear to my eye. I live with baby boys who have quite severe eczema that I can do little about, so to inflict this pain knowingly on your child makes me feel so so sad.

    I think I probably would intervene actually. Years ago I may not have, but having my own children, and seeing the good it can do, I think my views have changed. As a teacher I have had my own fair share of incidents where I have felt the need to do something, and as a result, have done. Like you say, children dont have to be taken away from their parents to be happier.

    Ive gone on, but in answer to your question, I *think* I would.
  • Ticky one. I think in the case of the sunburnt baby, I would have just gone over and said something in a friendly way like do want to borrow some suncream, muslim to cover baby etc or just say I don't know if you realise that your baby is burning - though how stupid would you have to be not to realise?
    As for anything else, if I saw someone being violent to a child I would definately step in, depending on where it was and if I was on my own with my kids then I might just call for help and keep a distance but if there were other people around then I would say something there and then.
    As for if I knew, or suspected, that a child was being mistreated at home then I would make a report to social services and if there were other people I knew who were also aware of the situation then I would ask them to as well to back it up.
    It's horrifying to read some of the stories that have been making the news recently and to think they are just the tip of the iceberg. Birth control is so easy why would you have a child if you didn't want to, and weren't going to do your very best for them.
  • A while back (when I was pregnant) I was on a train where a little boy was being spoken to in the most revolting manner I have ever heard. He was in a wheelchair and around 6 or 7, and his grandmother and mum were blaming him for them missing their stop. They were swearing at him (f-ing bastard etc) and shouting for a good 15 minutes before we reached Waterloo where everyone was getting off. It was a packed train and not one person intervened (including me). One woman shouted after them when we were all getting off the train, but the abusive gran and mum just told her to f*@k off.

    The image of the boy haunts me to this day and I feel so guilty that I was amongst the people who did nothing. I think it's awful that we were all too scared to do anything and let that poor little boy suffer.
  • would love, with all my heart, to be able to say that I would intervene but I'm not sure that I would in all honesty. Ironically, I think there would have been more chance of me speaking up BEFORE I became a parent (I guess I worry more now that things could turn nasty - after all, you never know who you are dealing with).

    I do, however, think I would report to social services / the police which makes me feel really snidey! Wish I could have the courage of my convictions but I think I would rather that it was dealt with by someone else...
  • interesting thread MrsS

    this is a really hard question and as much as it pains me to say it I think I agree with Kaycee - would be much more likely to be sneaky about it, particularly if LO was with me. I'd be scared that if things got nasty she might get hurt.

    In the sunburned baby case I would have phoned 999, no questions, no discussion with the parents - as far as I'm concerned there's no point. If the baby is burnt that's tantamount to child abuse. IMO warrants the same action as if they were sat there hitting the baby.

    In the case Coco witnessed I think that's really difficult. Realistically what you could you do? You would surely need to follow them home to find out their address as I can't imagine them giving you their names? unless maybe the little boy would? Actually maybe that's the solution, asking the little boy his name and trying your best to report it to social services. Also if I was pregnant there is no way I would have risked an argument with two people who treat their own child/gandchild like that so don't feel too bad Coco.

  • i would love to say i would step in on the spot, but i think it would depend on whether being pregnant or not at the time, or having ds with me, if for example someoen was being violent to their own child, i would then fear that there would be nothing to stop them turning that on me or ds, un pregnant and without ds, i most likely would step in, and slightly o/T a few yrs back i was walking along the busy seafront on my way to work with a colleague and a bloke was havinga right lair up at his girlfriend/wife and getting abit handy (pushing, shoving), there was a fair amount of people about, but all were either passing by pretending not to notice, or gathering on the other side of the road to watch from the side lines...i did go over and point out that he was making himself look a complete toss pot and if he didn't back off then i would be phoning the police, he huffed, shouted about and barged passed me...the girl then ran after him and they toddled off....beggars belief really. but no way would i do that now, i'm expecting no2 and if i had ds with me i wouldn't want it to go horribly wrong, and owuld probably now stand on the otehrside of the road with the rest of the audience and probably phone the police...i have also reported someone to SS, i ahd witnessed first hand the dad slap the 18month old round the face because in high summer she wouldn't put a knitted cardi on! i couldn't say anything then, i was 16 and wasn't sure what i should do. i sought council of an older mutual friend and we both decided it would be best if i rang SS, which i did. they investigated, the family then uprooted away as they were 'fed up of ppl sticking their noses in' anyway years later a major incident occured within that family and all 3 daughters were placed on the at risk register, which they still are now, soi have no doubt now that my initial phone call to SS was the right thing to do, it was probably still on record which most likely helped, although the incident was a mahusive one, to ahve them put on the register, which i'm sure was best for them. x
  • In my pre-baby days, I would have definitely intervened. My husband finds it really frustrating that I tangle myself up in potentially messy situations (confronting vandals and litter louts, trying to stop fights etc). If someone is doing something illegal, or just plain anti-social, I feel it is my duty to try and stop them - I don't think I have any right to complain about something if I'm not willing to try and do something about it.

    If I was with my child though, I'm not sure whether I'd still get involved. I guess it depends...if the mother was on her own, I might have said something. If she was with other people I might have chickened out, as there is more chance of it turning nasty.

    I would definitely have called the police or an ambulance though, if I saw the child was getting badly burnt.

    It's just so sad :\(
  • I honestly can't say for definate, it would depend on the people involved. I'm not very good at confrontation face to face, I'm too worried about embarrasing or insulting somebody. And of course, worried about somebody turning nasty on me.

    With the sunburned baby topic, I would try and "suss out" the parents, if I thought me stepping in could make them abusive, I wouldn't say anything. I would definatle not "just leave" it, I'd never live with myself, I'd have images of the blistering burning little boy forever more if I did, and thus I'd probably sneak off and make a call to the police and get myself back down to the beach to "keep an eye" and make sure the police turn up.

    I wish I was a confident strong enough person to just walk up and point out "your baby is burned and blistering, and more than likely suffering dehydration" but probably couldn't

  • I really over-use inverted commas don't i? haha
  • Well in the case of the sunburnt baby I think that I would go over to the mother and be friendly and just ask her does she want to borrow some suncream because I can see the baby burning.

    In cases of parenting that I don't agree with no I wouldn't intervene, mainly because its not my business, however if I thought the child was in any danger at all I would contact social services.
    I got into an argument with fil last night becuse I told him that we were weaning lo off the dummy because I would like for her to be off it by the time she is 1, I said I don't really like seeing babies past the age of 1 with a dummy, he told me I was being cruel and then he asked me the question do I think his other granddaughter shouldn't have a dummy (she is 15 nonths) I said that she is not my daughter and therefore it is not my choice to make I did say however that my daughter wouldn't have it. Hubby agreed with me and then fil told us how bil had a dummy until primary school and that it did him no harm etc...sorry thats a bit off topic but my point is I hate people trying to tell me how to parent so for that reason I wouldn't interfere, I am rambling now, sorry!
  • I'm glad this has been posted as I'm in a similar situation myself at the minute.
    I am pretty sure that the child isn't being mistreated but he is living in a house where the mothers boyfriend is violent whilst the LO is in the house - swearing and throwing things etc.
    I'm not sure of the full story so I'm still debating whether or not to call SS.
    My problem is that hubby works nights and I'm alone in the house with the baby. I'm scared that he will come after us (he is well known by the police for being violent) so I'm trying to go down alternative routes (through the landlord, environmental health, police) before I involve them.
    I've been brought up to mind my own business and stay well clear of anything like that but as a mother I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to that little boy

  • I would like to say I would intervene. But for me I think it depends on the situation. I might well contact social services or the police though.

    With the sunburnt baby, as James is so close in age, I have to say I would have been sitting there moaning to OH that I wanted to say something....but not sure if I would have.

    My scenario would have had to be something like taking lo over, and saying how hard it is to make sure he isn't burning. Oh your lo looks a little pink, would you like to borrow James's sunscreen?? Give them a chance to do the right thing!

    But I would definitely have sussed them out like linziMc.

    I think it's harder to approach a shouting parent, obviously you're stepping into a volatile situation.

    Now as a parent I hope I will never get myself in a situation, where someone else feels the need to intervene. However I can see the first reaction would be defensiveness, and it's none of your business. But a child is helpless to an adult, and an adult should not abuse that. If we as adults and parents cannot step in to help a child....well. xx

  • I pre-baby wouldnt hesitate to say something.

    Post baby I am more careful, as I have no fear for myself but couldnt handle if any harm came to her as a result of my actions.

    However i think people have to be careful in the type of situation they interfere in. When my LO was 3 months old we were at a horse event and she was crying as she had hiccups. A woman approached me to tell me that she was cold, and wouldnt let up, despite me repeating she was fine. This pissed me off no end!

    So I think i would only interfere if it was something really serious, and i wouldnt push my point if the parents werent willing to listen
  • Well as a teacher I consider it my responsibility to protect any child in my care and I have on a number of occasions contacted First Response and Social Services. It is a horrible situation to be involved with but no where near as horrible a situation as the one the child/children is/are being removed from.

    With the situation on the beach I would have initially approached it in a way much similar to the one that mythical describes, by suggesting that they perhaps borrow my sunscreen.

    This is not to say that I walk around looking for bad parenting! If I do not agree with something and as long as it does not put the child in danger I would certainly not intervene.
  • In this case i would have called 999 and explained the situation to them and let them deal with it... i cant say i would have the guts to go up to them myself and say something and im a lot tougher than i was before having kids!

    If i ever saw a child actually getting hit badly/abused then i would step in.. i would also call social services if i was aware of anything like that happening! xx
  • Psychological research shows that, other than those in authority, somewhere in the region of less than 10% of people would intervene.

    Several people saw Jamie Bulger being led to his death. One spoke to the boys and, despite Jamie crying and asking for help, they believed they were brothers and so chose to walk away. All the witnesses when interviewed claimed they did not feel it appropriate to intervene in family matters.

    I pray I am in that 10%, especially where a child is concerned. They cannot protect themselves, we can, and I would never forgive myself if I saw something, did not intervene, and then read about the worst possible outcome afterwards.

    That being said, noone knows how they will react in any given situation until they are in it.

    Great thread Beth, very interesting.
  • if i thought a baby/child was at risk i would intervene, but probably not personally, i think it would depend on how i thought the intervention would be taken, i would be too afraid of being attacked, afterall if an adult is being cruel to a child i doubt they would think twice about hurting an adult, i would contact someone with autority to intervene/ investigate as neccesary such as the police or social service, i think i would rather risk being wrong than assiting in a childs abuse/neglect by ignoring it
  • Coco, your story has really affected me - and Renri, interesting stats. I too am haunted by the thought of Jamie bulgar, and what I would have done had I witnessed it.

    Coco, what you describe is called the 'bystander effect' and is shockingly common. The more people witnessing a horrible event, the less likely an individual is to help. Remember the news story about the guy who was stabbed because he asked a bloke to stop throwing chips around a bus? The bus was packed out but nobody lifted a finger to help apparently.

    People like to think they would do something to help - but in reality, when a large group of people is present, everyone thinks 'surely someone will do something in a minute?'.

    Depressing isn't it? I hope that by having knowledge of this psychological phenomenon, I would be one of the 10% spurred into action. But I honestly can't say until I was actually in that situation. As a mother of 3 now, I generally do think of my own safety first now.

    [Modified by: ~ Tottie ~ on May 25, 2010 11:21 PM]

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