- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I think this deployment is bringing out the worst in people. This is my husband’s second deployment with his division, and I can see the ill effect it is having on my neighbors.

One neighbor in particular is leaving her children home alone at night. I know for a fact that she is leaving at 11 p.m. and not returning until 2 or 3 a.m.

I hate to rat on her and cause problems for her husband, who is in Iraq. Do you think I should call child protective services the next time it happens? — Stressed from Deployment

Dear Stressed,

Listen to yourself for a minute! You obviously are up until 2 or 3 a.m. watching your neighbors’ coming and goings. You report they are leaving their children home alone and unattended and you don’t want to be a “rat.”

You may be stressed, but I am tired of getting e-mails from people telling me about what is taking place in their communities, on and off post, and the detrimental effects it is having on children — but nobody wants to speak up.

Listen to me, Stressed, the next time you are up in the wee hours spying on your neighbors, and you know their underage children are home alone, call your local police department or the MPs. I can guarantee you they will know what to do if they find helpless children home alone.

If you won’t make the call, then you are just as much to blame as the parent if something happens to the children, as you were a witness but did nothing.

This is about innocent children. Talk to your neighbor. Tell her if she leaves her children unattended again, you will call the military police immediately.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I need some quick advice. We know our friends would not make good foster parents. We have heard them say many times that they don’t like children but are trying to become foster parents because the money will supplement their income.

I think the agency should do its own investigating to discover the truth. Do you think we should tell the agency what we’ve heard or just refuse to be a reference? — Struggling with the Truth

Dear Struggling,

I am always perplexed by people who struggle with the truth, especially when it comes to children. Why wouldn’t you want to speak up and prevent a situation that could be harmful to children?

People sit and talk about the harmful things that occur to children; they see it, they know about it, and then refuse to report it or get involved.

Many states are overwhelmed by the need for foster parents. Thousands of children are getting older in the child welfare system. Moreover, as children get older, their chances of finding a permanent adoptive home decrease tremendously. But because of this need for foster parents, many undesirable people slide through the cracks and become foster parents and adoptive parents.

Agencies are depending on people like you and your husband to step up to the plate and tell the truth when you are listed as references. You should consider it an honor to help the agency do its job.

You said these are your friends. Then tell your friends and the agency the truth.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs Thursdays and Sundays in The Washington Times. Contact her at dearmsvicki@yahoo.com.

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