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  1. #1
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    Jun 2011
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    Exclamation Obese, Mentally Ill Mother Uses Children As Weapons

    My question involves guardianship in the State of: Washington and North Carolina.

    This is kind of a tough situation, and I am not sure how to proceed, we need some sort of guardianship over my cousin's 2 young children who live with me, my mother, and brother. The children's mother, "Angela" also lives with us, and she is the problem.

    My cousin "Paul" had two children out of wedlock with "Angela", they are now 4 and 12. Having always been close to Angela, including vacations and generally supporting the kids, we ultimately moved with Angela away from Paul with the children to Washington State, because not only is Angela's life in danger because of her weight, she had no one to help her with the kids, who don't listen to her because she won't get up and do anything for/with them. the kids' dad, Paul, has always been distant and selfish, going over their house mainly to sleep with Angela when he can't find anyone else. My mother and I (I am the kids' cousin, my mom their great aunt) offered Angela the chance to move with us to WA when my mother lost her house, and Angela and the kids came. The idea was that Angela would receive better medical care in WA, and would hopefully have gastric bypass which would save her life. We brought her to WA with plans of how Angela would walk, and exercise and change her diet and become somewhat human again. She came not only as the mother to our relatives, but she came as a friend we've been deeply concerned for.

    We've had several fights with Angela since they all moved here. Mainly, she will not get up and do anything. Angela has sleep apnea and won't wear her Cpap mask, so she's tired all day and uses that as an excuse not to care for her 4 year old child. We live in the same house, but I am downstairs in the basement, and it took me quite some time to realize that Angela was leaving the 4 year old running around the house alone while she slept all day. I mean Angela would sleep without her mask til 3pm or so, and many times she would not get up even once to get the child a bowl of cereal or a cup of juice. The only thing we can count on Angela getting up for is dinner, yet she often leaves the 4 year old hungry and thirsty by refusing to get up and make him food. She lies about what she's done, such as turning on the water and leaving him to bathe himself, which the kid does poorly, then claiming that she was there the whole time (which the child contradicts) which leads up to a screaming match between Angela, myself, and my mother.

    What invariably happens is that Angela doesn't do something she's supposed to do, like take care of her child, or walk the older child to the bus stop (we learned there was a sexual predator harming women on our street and insisted that Angela walk the 12 year old to and from the bus stop) or washing the dishes. We all start screaming at each other about how she does nothing all day, which she always negates saying that we don't know all that she does because we're not here, and then tells us we treat her like a dog and that she's going to back to North Carolina with her kids. She has no money, and no relatives, and no options. She's on disability, and if she did use her check for a 4 day train ride, when she got back to NC, she'd have nowhere to stay more than a few days because no one is willing to put up with her body odor, and laziness. The children would be unsafe, and not in the "Oh she's not raising them how *WE* would like them raised" way, but in the way that no one would be there to take care of them. No one would be there to see that the 12 year old goes to school, or that the 4 year old is fed properly and doesn't harm himself. It would almost be like the kids would be alone wherever they lived, which would undoubtedly be in some government housing in an unsafe neighrborhood.

    Angela is mentally ill, and sometimes violent. In March she and I got into an argument and she threw a heavy-bottomed pot and and hit me in the head with it. I made her go to the hospital to check herself in after she broke down and claimed to want to die, but they had no beds for her, so she came back to my house and tried to take the kids back to North Carolina when she realized I would probably be mad at her for life. And this is how it goes; she does something horrible, then claims she's taking the kids back to NC because SHE is unhappy, meanwhile the kids are thriving here. She will say she doesn't care because she's not happy, and that they will be fine, when she could drop dead at any moment, and is completely unstable.

    Last night, we had a disagreement over the dishes. Angela was demanding her 12 year old unload the dishwasher to help her, and when the child refused Angela claimed she wouldn't clean up the kitchen at all, and when my mother told her that was unacceptable, Angela cursed at my mother and a huge fight erupted. Angela again threatened to take the kids back to NC because she said we treat her like a dog, but she refuses to acknowlege that we're furious with her for being lazy and slothful. Then Angela admitted that she hadn't taken her depression/mood stabilizing medication that day, and admitted that when she doesn't take it, she becomes "crazy." All is well for the time being.

    The problem I have is that Angela shouldn't be allowed to be in charge of a pet gerbil, much less two children, but I have no idea what to do. It's sick the way she'll turn every argument (that she causes) into a threat about taking the kids away because she knows we fear for their safety, but since we're talking about Angela's weight being the main reason behind all of our fights, I don't know what to do. She's an unfit mother, but she's not on drugs or alcohol, she's just morbidly obese and mentally unstable. She uses her 12 year old as a slave to "raise" her 4 year old, while she lays in bed or sits on the computer, and the thought of the 12 year old roaming around in a ghetto government housing neighborhood in North Carolina scares the hell out of me, not to mention all of the things that could happen to the 4 year old.

    On a good day, Angela claims to be preparing for gastric bypass, but on a bad day she spends her time romanticizing how great it would be to be back in NC where it's easy, where she'd be allowed to eat herself to death and not have to do anything. She doesn't think there's anything wrong with how she raises the kids, because she just says "they'll be fine!" which really means that she doesn't care one way or the other if they're safe, fed, happy, or cared for.

    Does anyone know anything we can do, legally? It might be worth noting that the kids' father has an older child he's "given" to the child's aunt since that child's mother is HIV + and living on the streets... There's no chance that my cousin, the kids' father will want to do anything like raising them, or he would have tried to save his older child.

    This situation is heartbreaking. Angela is shrewd enough to know that she'd lose all bargaining power if she signed the kids over to us, so she won't, she just claims that she would never really take the kids back to NC, where they don't even have a blanket or a pillow to sleep on, much less an actual home. The problem is that when she gets mad, when she hasn't had her medication, when we're all shouting at each other, in that moment she throws NC in our faces, and once even called a friend to loan her the money for the train ride and had her 12 year old pack up. This was the day after she attacked me with the pot. Is there anything we can do legally to ensure that she doesn't take the children back to homelessness in NC?

  2. #2
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    Apr 2009
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    Default Re: 540 Pound Mentally Ill Mother Uses Children As Weopons

    Obesity does not prove that she's unfit. Neither does laziness.

    This is not going to be what you want to hear, so please bear with me. It's not said out of malice or anything of that nature.

    These are NOT your kids. She has every right to raise them how she sees fit - and frankly you're all stepping WAY out of line in telling her how to raise them. She probably isn't thrilled with legal strangers (that's what you are to her children) yelling at her and trying to impose their values on her. Also, even if she does move back to NC, there is nothing wrong with raising children in government housing - and there are bad neighborhoods everywhere.

    Here's the kicker.

    The children aren't being neglected or abused, correct? And if they WERE, you would have involved social services before now, correct? Otherwise - given that you live in the same house - you'd be just about as culpable as Mom.

    You can't force her to be Mom of the Year, and you absolutely cannot force her to remain somewhere she doesn't want to be - she's free to go and live in NC, ND or anywhere else with her children.

  3. #3
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    Jun 2011
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    11

    Default Re: 540 Pound Mentally Ill Mother Uses Children As Weopons

    I guess my post is a little too long, so you didn't see the part where she stays in bed all day leaving the 4 year old running around the house hungry. We're not legal strangers, we've been closer to Angela and the kids than anyone else in the family, that's why she chose to live with us. I think you've got a point, that she could easily see this as we don't have the right to tell her how to raise her kids, but she has given almost all control to us when she's not mad. We cook for them, we buy their clothes, we are left to babysit when she's at the Drs frequently... But when she gets mad she gets unreasonable, and she goes straight to the whole "I'm taking my kids..."

    AS for the children not being neglected, this is precisely what I am accusing her of, neglecting the kids basic needs if it involves getting up. She's sick physically and mentally, not just a less than desirable parent. Her sleep apnea robs her of energy and as a result, she does not take care of either of those kids.

    My mother recently became Angela's caretaker, since she's on disability. Angela can't even wipe herself (either end) after using the bathroom, and she gets these rashes on her body that my mother has to treat, I mean, she needs all kinds of help for herself, so she can't really be there for the kids. I thought I was giving an accurate portrayal, but I guess not.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 540 Pound Mentally Ill Mother Uses Children As Weopons

    Yes, you're legal strangers. That's the correct term

    If your Mom is Angela's legal caretaker, then social services needs to be involved anyway. If Mom is unable to parent her kids, Dad is the next in line for custody. Seriously - although one or all of you can file for guardianship, if Dad objects he's likely going to prevail in court.

    So make the phone call - get social services involved.

  5. #5
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    Jun 2011
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    Default Re: 540 Pound Mentally Ill Mother Uses Children As Weopons

    Dad won't object, he gave away custody of his oldest child, now 17.

    I just wondered if there was anything we could do if after another fight (she told us if she tried to go to NC to commit her, last time, but who wants to do that?), she makes another serious attempt to go back to NC. I mean, if there was someone like us who would let her live with them, you know, fine. But I want to make it clear that if she took a train and went back to NC, she has nowhere to go. A couple of friends might let her stay a few days, but she owes the housing authority in her old town money, so she could honestly find herself homeless in a couple of days, with two kids!

    She's in therapy, after attacking me she's been in therapy ever since, and she's preparing for surgery, somewhat, but she makes thoughtless decisions, and it's the kind of situation where she'd get angry and leave with the kids, and 24 hours later when she's on the train somewhere in Montana or whatever, she'd realize what she'd done, and how screwed they were. She has no money, no relatives to help (they disowned her because the children are biracial) and it'd just be horrible. I don't know. I feel like this might happen, and I guess I wanted to know that maybe legally, there's nothing I can do, so that if it does happen, I won't feel like I let her take those kids to her death and their detriment, you know?

    Sleep Apnea is very rough on the body, and at 540 pounds, that's super rough on the body, and I don't think she's going to last much longer if she doesn't have surgery, so when we fight over silly things like dishes and she escalates it because she hasn't taken her pills, it feels like such a disasterous thing that the kids could have to deal with. It's tough because we'd need to involve social services now, but I don't want to make her feel we're trying to take her kids, we just want to make sure they're safe, and there's no one else who would be willing to let Angela and the kids live with them like this until she saves enough of her disability check to get her own place, you know? She couldn't so much as buy them a set of sheets, no one would drive her around in their cars if she had the money!

    It's just tough.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: 540 Pound Mentally Ill Mother Uses Children As Weopons

    There are programs that can help Angela - which county in WA are you all located?

    (I'm here, too )

  7. #7
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    Jun 2011
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    Default Re: 540 Pound Mentally Ill Mother Uses Children As Weopons

    We're in King County, she's been through the DSHS and has medicaid and is technically on track for Bypass surgery, which means therapy, but she's admitted to lying to her therapist so.. I don't know.. Either we placate her to the point of the ridiculous, or we risk her taking the kids back to god knows what... I guess it's time to swallow my ego and keep her happy until she can have surgery and start to take care of herself and the kids... It just feels like one of Murphy's Laws "no good deed goes unpunished."

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