Can/should I call DSS?

I found out this weekend that my husband’s Ex-wife, who has primary physical custody and lives one county away with her fiance, sometimes leaves their seven year old daughter home alone. Their daughter says her mother got a telephone landline specifically for when she’s left at home, “and she only goes, like, this far away [she indicated about two feet with her hand motions], so if there’s an emergency and I call her, she’ll be home in, like, two seconds.” I could tell that the way she explained it was exactly the way in which it was explained to her.

I haven’t told my husband, because he’ll be even more furious about the situation than I am, and I don’t know that he’d handle it properly. I can’t think of a single situation in which it would be appropriate to leave a seven year old home alone, and I feel that this calls Ex-wife’s mindset and judgement into serious question – we have countless, smaller examples of poor judgement and borderline abuse/neglect, nothing that is particularly egregious as an isolated incident – but put together, they add up to a really hideous life for this poor girl.

My question is, should I call DSS about my step-daughter being left home alone? If so, should I mention any of our other concerns about how she’s cared for? How does DSS go about investigating these things? And should I call the office in this county, or the one in which Ex-wife and daughter live?

Thanks in advance for you advice, and huge thanks to the Rosen Law Firm for this invaluable resource!

You may call DSS and they will go out and do a safety assessment, I would recommend that you convey all your concerns. You should call the agency in the county where the child lives.

Before or at the same time of calling DSS I would convey this to your husband. He is likley to be upset that you did not tell him about this most severe issue about his daughter and went above him before doing so. I agree that they should be called, but as a parent I would want to know first.

Thank you both! I will definitely tell my husband, but I just wanted to have a plan of action first.

I wish you all the best!

Be very careful about calling DSS. You might see if anyone knows how they are in your county. In some places they rush to judgement. In most places (I don’t say all because I can’t prove it.) they are overworked.

Another option would be to give the girl you number and say she can call you anytime.

Regards your assertion that a seven year old can’t be left alone. It has been a very long time since I had a seven year old but I think she would be okay if I went in the garden for an hour, or maintained the flowers around the mailbox for 20 minutes, or went over to my neighbors for 5 minutes to get some sugar. (And I would have a wonderful excuse for not having time to gossip.) This clearly depends on the seven year old.