By A. Hosack & P. Berman, K. Hecht
I don’t know if I want to play with him again or not. I have fun with him. But maybe he steals….
Claire’s taking Davy to the park. He had been looking forward to going all week. At breakfast, he had danced around the kitchen with his cereal bowl as he reminded his mommy they were going. But now the excitement he had felt earlier felt bad- more like worry. He enjoyed his time so much more at the park when he played with somebody else. But what if the somebody else was Kevin. Should he play with him?
He didn’t want to bring it up because if his mommy told him he couldn’t play with Kevin, then that was that. But maybe if he just started playing with him, she wouldn’t say anything. What should he do? His stomach was feeling so upset, he had to speak up and get help.“Mommy, if I see Kevin at the park I don’t know if I should play with him or not because maybe he steals?” Davy said looking sad. Claire looked back at Davy carefully and said, “It is important to know that all of your friends are good friends Davy. It isn’t always easy to tell at first if someone is going to be a good friend or not. You just met Kevin. You really don’t know much about him – including how he gets his candy bars and his chocolate milk. Take things slowly and remember to act like a good friend yourself.”
My stomach feels better! Why is it always so hard to ask mommy for help?
Davy didn’t understand himself sometimes. His mommy always had good advice. Sometimes she was quick to yell but most of the time, she always took her time and was fair to him. Why did he have trouble asking her about Kevin? He shrugged and let it go. What was important was that he wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Kevin and his mom had said it was okay to take time to figure out if Kevin was a good or bad friend.
Davy held his mommy’s hand as they walked across the parking lot and into the park. He led her to her favorite tree where she sat down and took out her book. Davy was supposed to stay within her site the whole time he played. The tree was in a great location- right in the middle of all the play equipment. As he went over to get on the swing, Davy noticed that Kevin was walking towards him. He felt a mixture of anxiety and excitement. He had a friend to play with but, he might have something hard to figure out.
I am hungry. I wonder if Mommy brought any of my favorite snacks?
Kevin and Davy had been pushing each other on the swing and laughing a lot. It was such a warm sunny day and it felt like they owned the park because no other kids were there. Davy noticed his stomach had started to growl and he said, “Kevin, let’s go over to my mommy and eat some snacks!” Kevin blushed and looked down at his feet. “Davy, I have to go get my snack, I didn’t bring it close by,” Kevin said hesitantly. Davy got a worried thought, what if Kevin was going to go off and steal something. “If you didn’t bring a snack Kevin, don’t worry. My mommy knows I like to share with my friends; she likes to see that I can share, even when its chocolate.”
Kevin still seemed to be hesitating, so Davy took his hand and pulled him slowly towards his mommy. “Mommy, mommy,” Davy began to yell the top of his voice as he walked with Kevin over to the tree. Claire looked up and saw two little grimy boys covered in sweat. One had a big smile on his face and was her Davy. One looked very anxious and she trembled a little. Claire recognized the look in Kevin’s eye. Claire saw the look she used to have on her face. It was the look of a child who didn’t trust adults.
Despite the strong pull from Davy’s arm, Kevin was hanging back from Claire. Davy was ignoring his counter pressure to stop. With a final rank that almost made Kevin fall, Davy said, “This is my friend Kevin mommy.” Davy plopped down and pulled Kevin with him. “Can we have snacks mommy we are so hungry.”
I’m a stranger. Kevin shouldn’t really take any food from me. What should I do?
Claire didn’t know what to do. She would never want Davy to take food from a stranger. She knew she was a safe person, but she didn’t want to encourage someone else’s child to do something that could be dangerous. She opened her bag and kept herself busy moving things around while she tried to think. When she finally looked up, she tried to catch Kevin’s eyes and said, began taking out the snack she brought to give herself more time to think. When she looked up she said, “boys I have plenty of snacks for two. But maybe Kevin should ask his mommy’s permission to take a snack from me?”
At the words “that he should ask his mother”, Kevin began to back away. “Where are you going Kevin?” Davy asked anxiously. “I’ll be back in a moment,” Kevin said, “my mom doesn’t like to sit close to where I play because she says I’m very noisy. I’ll go ask about the snack and be right back.”
Claire knew she should meet Kevin’s mother face-to-face, but he was gone in an instant. He ran out of sight and then came right back. Claire knew in her heart that he hadn’t been gone long enough to have talked to his mother, but he had this haunted look on his face. He also looked anxiously at the food she had put out on the grass. He looked hungry.
“What did your mommy say,” Davy asked. “She says it’s fine because we’re not going to have lunch today so I can have as much snack as I want if it is okay with your mommy.” Davy looked at Kevin, puzzled, and said, “how can you not be having lunch today? My stomach wants lunch every day.” “Oh, we’re just going to be very busy today with errands. I’ll have lunch tomorrow,” Kevin said. In her heart, Claire knew that Kevin was making the whole thing up. She didn’t know why he was so hungry, but she was going to feed him. She gave him a plate full of small little peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and an apple.” Davy compared his plate to Kevin’s. “How come you gave him more sandwiches than me?” Davy said jealously. “We don’t have a lot of errands Davy,” Claire said, “we will be having lunch and you know how Mrs. Carson would feel if you didn’t have any appetite for her lunch.”
“You are so right mommy,” Davy said as he ate his apple first. Kevin seemed to inhale his food. It was gone so quickly it was almost as if he was afraid the food would be taken away from him. Claire was guessing, but as she looked at how thin he looked, his overly large clothes, and the way he had been behaving and began to fear he was a neglected child. If his mom was at the park, he was too little to be out of her sight. And, the “if” she was at the park was a big question.
Are there warning signs that Kevin could be abused or neglected? He might just be making up the “no lunch today” comment. His mom might have told him not to take food from strangers, but he wasn’t listening. His clothes might be hand me downs from his big brother….
Could Claire know for sure?
Does she have to know for sure to do something about it?
No, as a resident of Pennsylvania, Claire doesn’t have to have more information about what is happening to Kevin at home than what she already knows. It is up to Claire, as a concerned adult, to just report these concerns. It will then be the job of professionals to find out if Kevin is okay or not and what if any services, they should provide to him and his family. Every state has their own specific rules for how to report concerns about abuse. To read about how this is done in PA, go to:
The following is a quote taken directly from this website:
“How ChildLine Protects Children
ChildLine is part of a mandated statewide child protective services program designed to accept child abuse referrals and general child well-being concerns, and transmit the information quickly to the appropriate investigating agency. ChildLine is responsible for receiving verbal and electronic referrals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The toll-free hotline, 1-800-932-0313, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive reports of suspected child abuse.”