Tonight my heart is bleeding for child victims of neglect.
Around 6 o’clock this chilly evening, we noticed a toddler who had wandered into our driveway from the alley behind the house. She was dirty and wearing thin, short-sleeved pajamas and one adult-sized tennis shoe. She was pretending to paint our car with a paintbrush.
I waited awhile for an adult to appear, but no one did. When I rushed out to further assess the situation, I saw her barely-older brother, also in thin PJs and adult shoes, playing near the alley. I asked them where their mommy was. “She left me,” said the little boy.
So I knocked repeatedly on our neighbor’s slightly-open screen door , but no one came. I opened the door and yelled inside several times. Still, no one responded. I sent the kids inside to get an adult, and they came back – twice – without one.
The little boy asked me to ask his daddy if they could play outside. When I told him to get his father so that I could talk to him, he said, “There’s no grown ups.”
After ten-ish minutes of this, my mom called the police as I told the kids to wait for me to run inside and get my own shoes. Before I knew it, both of them had let themselves into our house, and upstairs into my bedroom!
We tried again and again to knock and yell into the house near where they’d been playing outside. More silence. One of the kids said their daddy was sleeping in a chair inside, so we carefully and very nervously entered the house.
The kitchen floor was covered in items that I can only assume the kids had flung out of the kitchen cabinets. There was a baby girl in a playpen chewing on dirty women’s tennis shoes. They had all been left unattended for what was obviously a very long time.
Because there was their dad, curled up in a ball on the recliner, practically comatose. We yelled and yelled at him, from only a few inches away, but he didn’t respond. I was seriously afraid that he was dead. So we kicked his chair multiple times, finally stirring him.
He said, “Yeah?”
We said, “We live in the house across the alley. Your children wandered into our yard and then our house. They don’t have on any shoes or jackets. They’ve been playing in the alley, and could get hit by a car. We’ve been trying for a long time to get your attention to make sure everything is alright.”
He said, “Okay??”
And we went through that exact dialogue two or three more times.
He didn’t question who we were, where we came from, or why we were in his house. He wasn’t startled, worried, confused, embarrassed, or concerned in any way. He was also obviously high as a kite. When he finally staggered to his feet, we left and shut the back door behind us.
Unbelievable. This man was more concerned about having been awakened than that the children for whom he was supposed to be caring were playing outside in the alley, in the cold, and entering a stranger’s home.
When a police officer finally arrived at our house, I explained to him my concern for those children. He went to their front door, and got no answer. He tried their back door – no answer again.
I started to walk back to our house, but decided to run after the police car as it was pulling away. The officer told me that the guy finally answered the door, giving him the explanation was that the children had gone to sleep with him, and must have slipped out the unchained back door without waking him. The officer said there was nothing he could do, and that he had to leave. No big deal.
I beg to differ. Huge deal! I cried all the way back to my house. I thought about those kids, imagining them getting hit by cars, being abducted, and worse. I wondered if they had been whooped for causing trouble. I thought about the baby, and wondered how long she’d been sitting in a dirty diaper in her playpen. What kind of parents don’t know or care where their children are?!
I told my family that I want to go back and offer to babysit. They told me not to get involved, that they couldn’t pay for it anyway. I told them I’d do it for free. They told me that I can’t save everyone.
I am so unbelievably frustrated right now. Little kids deserve for their caretakers to actually care for them. I don’t know what I can do for the little kids from the house across the alley, but there has to be something I can do for others like them.
I’m open to suggestions. For now, I’m going to do some Internet research to try to figure it out. And tonight I’ll pray for all the kids who are neglected by their guardians daily.