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(102 Posts)
breeze Mon 24-Feb-14 11:09:17

Hi, been shedding a few tears this morning. Have grandchildren every weekend after my son's relationship broke down. They weren't married, so he is constantly threatened that he can't see the kids unless he complies with everything she says. She had them very young, has never worked and now lives on benefits. It's breaking my heart because they turn up filthy, with matted hair every week. I do as much as I can, cooking them healthy meals and taking them to the park and giving them soaks in the bath and clean clothes. The eldest has been covered in sores for a few months now. My son has asked the mother to take them to GP but she refuses. I think they're off the health visitor scope after a few moves. My son is told to eff off if he tries to request clean clothing (he pays a good amount of maintenance and I buy a lot of clothes for them) or health checks. I love them so very very much, it's breaking my heart but I have no control over their care apart from what I can do at weekends. I know they're going to be the scruffy, dirty kids when they start school but I can't force their mother to be clean. I am at my wits end, it's so hard to switch off. Is there anything I should do about the sores? I don't know if it's an allergy, or maybe, and this is what I suspect, wearing dirty clothing and sleeping in unchanged bed linen. And if I took my grandchild to our GP, I would probably get into trouble. My son is afraid, as she keeps threatening to stop him seeing them if he makes a fuss. We are in bits. We are a clean (not obsessive) household and it's breaking my heart seeing them like this. How do you cope? How do you switch off? I'm making myself ill and I'm not long out of treatment for a serious illness. Any advice much appreciated. The mother hates me now, although we once got on well, so any suggestions from me would just make things worse.

annsixty Mon 24-Feb-14 11:19:15

I can only say how sorry I am for you in this situation but on a positive note when the children do get to school I would hope the staff will react and get someone , SW/HV, involved and then it will not be you who gets the flack.

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 24-Feb-14 11:19:25

Could you and your son (both of you together) take them to the doctor's about the sores? Your son is their father, married or not. It's probably only eczema but some treatment should be got for it. You would n't have to discuss the rest of it with the doctor in front of the children though.

If they are happy overall, I don't think you can, or probably need to, do. Lots of kids won't brush their hair, and dirt doesn't always have to mean ill health.

breeze Mon 24-Feb-14 11:30:35

I did wonder about going to our GP, although they're not registered there. But my son is worried that if it gets back to her, she'll go mad and stop him seeing them. I know a bit of dirt never hurt a child (I brought up three boys!) but this is different. Their clothing is encrusted with food and dirt and the eldest is pale and hair is falling out at the back (the one with the sores). They seem happy and definately aren't abused (I would have to step in if anyone were hurting them, or they became very withdrawn). It's so hard to see it. Thankyou so much for your support.

Good point that I guess it will get noticed when they start school. I do worry the sores will get infected though. It's so hard trying to put it to the back of my mind. When they turn up each week I am horrified at the state of them. It's so sad. Again, thankyou for your support.

Joelsnan Mon 24-Feb-14 11:34:36

I think that the health and welfare of the children should be paramount. Is it impossible for your son to take custody of the children. If he is paying maintenance, then surely this should be proof of paternity?
Despite the mother's attitude to you, could you go and talk to her, or do you have contact with her mother?
Otherwise I would try to arrange to talk to someone in the child protection department. There you should be able to confidentially raise your concerns and they would either give you strategies to deal with the situation or determine if intervention was necessary.
My thoughts are with you flowers

cathybee Mon 24-Feb-14 11:38:20

Breeze You speak as if you have no power or control and this is why you are stressed. If all that you say is correct, she is an unfit Mother and she would be deemed so by any Authority.

Your son needs to be sure that any maintenance he gives her is going through a Bank so that he has proof of payments

Your son, as they are HIS children too, is legally permitted to take his children to the Doctors and check out the health problems that the children have.

Any nasty conversations with the Mother can be recorded(secretly) and used as evidence against her.

If the children are dirty and un-kepped, you and your son are probably not the only people that have noticed this, and you may be able to ask other people for their comments, a Nursery or such like that the children go to.

You Son has rights, you must remember this.

It sounds like she thinks she has your son over a barrel, but as said, your son has rights, he just needs a good Family lawyer. If there is a financial issue with this CAB would be able to help.

Please do not let it take you over and over whelm you--think practically, think outside the box and try and detach yourself when making decisions so that you make the right ones.

Lastly know that your grandchildren can be taken away from this un fit Mother. un-fortunately many Mother have their children taken away due to neglect.

There can be a happy ending for you, your son and the children smile

breeze Mon 24-Feb-14 11:42:34

I did mention to my husband this morning that perhaps we could confidentially contact social services to request a Health Visitor go to the house to give her some advice. My husband said we may make things worse if she figures out it was us. It's such a tricky path to tread, as I don't want to lose contact, as then they won't even get a bath at weekends, trips out in the fresh air and some healthy food. But I agree with you, that the children have to come first. I am very torn. I think I'm a bit scared that they won't keep it confidential if I go to the authorities. If it wasn't for the sores I would find it easier to turn a blind eye. Problem is, unmarried fathers have no rights, she's already threatened him twice to break contact if he won't have them when she asks him to. I want to keep it as civil as possible for the children's sake but it's hard sometimes. I think unless they were being physically abused, the courts wouldn't allow him to take custody. Does anyone know if you 'can' for sure contact social services in confidence? Anyone out there who knows about these things? Thankyou Joelsnan.

JessM Mon 24-Feb-14 11:43:49

This does sound like child neglect - that is the central issue here.
There are some people on GN who have years of professional experience in social work and they will give you good advice. I will PM a couple of them and ask them to look at your post (as your post title is not obvious and they may not notice it)

Riverwalk Mon 24-Feb-14 11:44:33

I don't think you can wait for them to start school!

Why do you think it's the responsibility of a school or HV to take action?

annodomini Mon 24-Feb-14 11:44:58

I could be that the mother needs help. Does she suffer from depression? That could explain her inertia in the matter of personal hygiene. I know that this possibility doesn't make things any easier but it may offer an explanation.

Granb Mon 24-Feb-14 11:45:10

What a difficult situation for you Breeze. Tightropes and eggshells spring to mind.

Could mum be depressed/finding it hard to cope. Before going to SS there are other agencies who could assist - what about her local Home-Start - she could self-refer or your son could perhaps mention it to the childrens' GP. All very unjudgemental and lots of signposting to assistance. If you are not familiar with the organisation, google Home-Start UK - there is sure to be a local scheme.

breeze Mon 24-Feb-14 11:47:20

Thankyou Cathybee. He does make the payments through a bank, that had occurred to us incase of any dispute. But I didn't realise he had any rights at all. You hear so much about fathers for justice problems, where mothers have cut off all contact, I think my son is afraid this is what she will do. She is very nasty and spiteful to him by text. I shall ask him to keep the one she sent him yesterday which had the F word at the end! After he said he felt embarrassed taking them to shops in the filthy clothes she'd sent them out in. And you are absolutely right, that it's the helplessness that is getting to me.

cathybee Mon 24-Feb-14 11:49:05

BREEZE I am not sure that you have the correct information regarding un married Fathers--I had a family issue much the same as yours and was on the telephone to a Family Lawyer for two hours.

She stated that the Father has as much right as the Mother UNLESS a court has said otherwise--Please check this out.

You have loads of support on GN and it will help yousmile

breeze Mon 24-Feb-14 11:55:14

Thanks to everyone. The mother is not depressed. She has found a new boyfriend and going out and about herself. She has never taken the children to playgroup, or any mother and baby groups. They have never been to nursery and the eldest starts school in Sept. She was just very young when she had them and comes from a home where I reeled in shock when I visited. It was very dirty. So to her, it's normal. My son works full time and when they lived together, you would not believe the state of the house. He had to try to clean when he got home from work but he gradually got more and more exhausted, as he was also trying to do exams at the time. I can only think someone in authority needs to have a word and point out that she has to do laundry and change their beds and so on but I am just so torn between contacting the authorities and losing all contact if she realises it was us. It's so hard, at least we see them all the time now so can do some things for them. We go to parks, swimming. If we lost contact I would fear for them. At least I am in a position to keep some sort of an eye on them. I had not heard of Home-Start. I shall look into it. Thankyou.

whenim64 Mon 24-Feb-14 11:56:31

The children's welfare comes before everyone else's feelings of fear about the consequences of helping them. If you return them to their mother, washed, with clean tidy hair and clothes, you're helping them and her. Has she got decent washing facilities? Does she need any help with managing to keep the children and their bedding and clothes clean? If she's telling your son to eff off for requesting clean clothing, is that because she doesn't have any, doesn't want him using what she needs next day, or expects/hopes you'll wash their clothes because she can't allow herself to ask for help? Has she got any relatives who could support her?

Sad that she and your son are not together, but the children can be nurtured between you and she gets some respite if she struggles to cope the rest of the week until they come to you. If your son feels it's serious enough to speak to the GP or social services, there won't be an automatic assumption that they should be taken into care, nor does there need to be a breakdown in your regular contact with the children. Help can be given through nursery placements and/or family support to enable their mum to learn better ways to cope.

whenim64 Mon 24-Feb-14 11:58:31

Sorry, breeze our posts overlapped.

breeze Mon 24-Feb-14 12:00:29

I did not realise my son had any rights breeze. I think I am misinformed. I think we should perhaps contact social services in confidence. And request a health visitor to visit. She could speak to her about cleanliness, the sores and also that she needs to take them to mix with other children. Then should things get worse, we could speak to a Family Lawyer. Thankyou for your support all. It has made me feel better already. My son was so upset yesterday and saying 'I just don't know what to do'. It's heartbreaking. I couldn't sleep last night pondering what to do and I've had some great tips from you all, and also good to know that maybe he isn't as helpless due to not being married as we first though.

breeze Mon 24-Feb-14 12:17:05

Sorry, was talking to myself in my last post! I meant cathybee! As you can see I'm losing my mind! She most definately has lots of clothes whemim64. I buy them. I probably spend £100 a month on things for them to make sure they're o.k. My son gives £250 p.m. in maintenance (there are two children). And I wash everything I change them from when they are here and send them back to her. My husband suspects she may be selling my clothing on Ebay, and we don't see many of the things on them.

And she has gone back to live with her family. So she isn't on her own either and they've got a washing machine. I know from when they lived together before, she watches tv all day and didn't seem to think it was her responsibility to do any housework or laundry. So I guess she's just never been used to doing it and now no one does.

Anyway, I'm getting too nit picky now. The suggestions from you have been so helpful. Especially knowing my son has some rights should we take this further. I told him yesterday we will discuss it this week (I don't want to talk about it in front of the children) and now I can at least tell him he has got some rights as a father to seek a GP check. He can book a day off and maybe we can see our practice nurse and discuss how we could go about arranging a HV visit to her home.

You have all been wonderful. Thanks for your support. I feel a lot better. Just recovering from cancer treatment. Not easy having all of this going on but I wouldn't want to be without them at weekends for the world.

nightowl Mon 24-Feb-14 12:17:09

breeze if your son's name is on the birth certificates he shares parental responsibility (PR) with the mother and has equal rights to make all decisions. He could contact the health visitor himself (via the children's GP surgery) to ask for a check to be made. Good luck with this very difficult situation.

rosequartz Mon 24-Feb-14 12:17:39

Is his name on their birth certificates? I don't think you can stand back when they have sores (not eczema that they scratch? ) and he has rights as their father.
If they are at nursery they would have noticed, does your son just see them at weekends when they come to you? They must so look forward to staying with you.

She is just not coping, and there are people on here who are more qualified than me to advise the best way forward.
I can imagine how heartbroken you must be, it must be so difficult to know the right steps to take without antagonising her further.

rosequartz Mon 24-Feb-14 12:18:17

X post nightowl!

FlicketyB Mon 24-Feb-14 12:19:00

Surely, married or not married the father has rights providing his name is on the birth certificates. If he is not then there are problems but a DNA test would soon solve that. Breeze have you considered visiting your local Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) to talk it through with them. They will be able to advise you on your son's rights as the children's father, which, as I said, I think are more extensive than he thinks and offer you some solid help and advice.

cathybee Mon 24-Feb-14 12:21:21

breeze weight it all up before you do anything, because sometimes you need to choose from the worse of two evils.

If you truly believe that they are totally neglected, then it is your duty to speak to the authorities, however if you feel that they are not INTENTIONALLY being neglected, and its just a clean issue, then there may be another avenue for improvement.

Perhaps you could ask her if she needs any help around the house, just as a kind gesture. If you are not up to it all of the time perhaps a cleaner on occasions.

rosequartz Mon 24-Feb-14 12:22:30

Difficult to not buy them clothes, but can you keep nice clothes at your house , wash the ones she sends them in and send them back home in them clean? Surely she notices the difference in them when they go home clean and fresh?

newist Mon 24-Feb-14 12:30:44

I am impressed with all the help and good advice being offered here, for this difficult situation. These are for you breeze flowers