dealing with excessive absences?(Long)


  • Specializes in geriatric/LTC, Urgent Care.

I have a question for school nurses, if a child is excessively absent, as in on the brink of the parents going to court, how do you handle it when the child is in school and wants to call his parents to come get him b/c he says he's sick, and he's actually not? My stepson is excessively absent b/c his mother will not make him go to school and his father and I do not have custody of him and we can't enforce him going to school. On the days he is in school, he calls his mom and she has her mother go get him. How can we stop this ridiculous absenteeism when his mother will not make him go to school. His dad enrolled him at school so the certified letter came to him but we can't do anything about his attendance if we don't have him. Any suggestions? I am at my wits end with this kid, he's 12 and impossible! :angryfire


1,112 Posts

How is he gaining access to a phone? Most kids are not allowed to directly call parent. Nor can they be picked up without going through the school nurse.

If dad got the letter, he should be able to be part of the plan to keep him in school.

Is there a reason he would be fearful at school? Bullies? Are the calls around the same time each day? Does he ahve someone to sit with at lunch? I did some research on kids who move to new schools - the absolute WORST time of day is lunchtime.

Does he "feel" sick? Depression "feels" bad. Is he clinically depressed?

Is he going home to keep mom from being lonely? How is she doing?

When did this start? Was it around the time of a the divorce? at the time of remarriage? At the time of a new step sibling? Another transition? Move to a new location? Another loss? Did dad move farther away? You stated dad enrolled him. Why a new school?

Does mom think he should be in a different school?


32 Posts

At the school where I work, children who are going home sick must come through my office. I know that isn't the case everywhere, but it certainly makes it easier since kids can't just call mom and say "I'm sick" - the call must come from my office.

It sounds to me like there needs to be some sort of care plan set up with the school. In order for it to be affective, it needs to involve the teacher, nurse, principal, counselor (if relevant), and of course at least your husband if not both of you and his birth mom as well. They need to figure out why he can't seem to stay in school and what to do to help him. I totally agree with the previous post about what things should be looked into. This is a cycle that you really want to break now before things get worse and he gets older. He is obviously struggling in some area and is learning that all he needs to do is escape his problems instead of dealing with them, and his mom isn't doing him any favors by supporting the behaviour.

This is a hard situation, and I really feel for you! I hope it all works out in the best interests of everyone concerned.


57 Posts

Specializes in geriatric/LTC, Urgent Care.

To answer the questions about my original post, his mom and dad were divorced over 10 yrs ago, and she remarried within a year after so I don't think it's to do with a divorce. He has always had attendance problems even in his old school. When he first started at this school, he said he liked it now he won't go, won't do homework or study and is failing and he says he doesn't care. He does have a couple of friends he talks about so I don't think it's loneliness at school. His mom isn't home during the day she's a DON at a nursing home so she's working while he's supposed to be at school. I don't think it's to keep her company. She never really had him anyway, he's basically lived with his grandmother since he was a baby, but she never let his dad have him.:uhoh3: He has a problem with his temper, he doesn't follow rules like bedtime, cleaning his room, doing homework,etc. He punches walls, throws things, etc.. He gets mad when we try to make him follow rules and do things a normal 12yo should do. He thinks any form of discipline is child abuse and says we will go to jail if we spank him. He's ridiculous in the fact that he thinks rules don't apply to him. One of his teachers got on to him at school and the child thinks the teacher should apologize to him! The mom blames the school and they've bent over backwards trying to help him. She never goes to meetings with the school, his dad does. I don't know what to do with him, he thinks everyone should kiss his a@@ and he's 12! The problem with his temper is I'm afraid he is going to hurt my baby. It's due in July and he's got such a temper, I'm afraid he'll do something. He threw a remote at my mother in law and once tried to intimidate me with a kitchen knife. I'm lost and totally stressed, any advice would be greatly appreciated!

gr8rnpjt, RN

738 Posts

Specializes in Case Management. Has 38 years experience.

I don't understand what the concern is. He doesn't live with you. So you can be in control of how much exposure he has to your baby. If there is a problem with truancy the custodial parent is the one that is hauled into court. So the onus is on her, not you. What is your concern?


1,112 Posts

He sounds clincially depressed to me. What type of treatment / family therapy is he getting?

Life has not gone well for him so far - broken family, living with an elderly woman, and he is angry. He doesn't care - he doesn't like himself enough to care what happens to him.

He's about to be replaced in his father's family by the infant, so I'd expect the symptoms / acting out to escalate.

Symptoms of Depression in Children/Adolescents

Symptoms of child and adolescent depression vary in severity and duration and may be different from those in adults. Diagnosing depression in these age groups can be difficult because early symptoms can be hard to detect or may be attributed to other causes. Child and adolescent psychiatrists3 advise parents and other adults in a young person's life to be aware of signs of depression, such as:

Missed school or poor school performance

Changes in eating and sleeping habits

Withdrawal from friends and activities once enjoyed

Persistent sadness and hopelessness

Problems with authority

Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness

Poor self-esteem or guilt

Overreaction to criticism

Frequent physical complaints, such as headaches and stomachaches

Anger and rage

Lack of enthusiasm, low energy or motivation

Drug and/or alcohol abuse

Thoughts of death or suicide


1,112 Posts

"I don't understand what the concern is. He doesn't live with you. So you can be in control of how much exposure he has to your baby. If there is a problem with truancy the custodial parent is the one that is hauled into court. So the onus is on her, not you. What is your concern?"

She is the step mother. Even if dad does not have custody, he has responsiblities toward this child, and so would a step mother. If mom truly is neglectful, dad has a responsiblity to seek custody. I applaud the step mom for not wanting to ingore her responsibility and accountability for this child. This kid is on a path to self destruction and someone who loves him needs to take charge. It is going to be hard.

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