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How can I help my sister get out of a toxic home?

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  • How can I help my sister get out of a toxic home?

    My younger sister and I, (aged 18 and 20) are trying to find out if there is any way we can take our youngest sister (14) out of her home. My sister and I were given up as infants to our grandparents. When our youngest sister was born, she stayed with our biological mom and has been there since. Our mother has never had a dependable job, she has always worked as an exotic dancer or bartender. She has been in trouble with the law before and has a history with drugs and she and her boyfriend frequent the local bar almost every night. For the last year or so our youngest sister has called us multiple times in the middle of the night because they have come home drunk and they are fighting. The fights are almost always physical in nature. The police are called usually, and my mother and sister are forced to leave the home because the boyfriend owns it. My mother does not have a car or any place of her own to live, so when they leave they just walk around until mornin and go back once things simmer down. This is a norm for our youngest sister, and she has seen this type of behavior her entire life. Last night she called and expressed that she didn’t feel safe. This is the first time she has ever expressed concern for her own safety and said that this fight was particularly violent. We called our mother and offered to pick them both up and let them stay in my sisters apartment, no questions asked. Our mother refused because she doesn’t trust us not to get DCFS involved. We are afraid to call DCFS because 1, they normally won’t take the child out of the home unless there are extreme signs of abuse, and 2, we are afraid if we call our contact with our youngest sister will be cut off. We have been trying for months to find a way to get her out of the home to come live with one of us, as we both have our own places, cars, and jobs. It seems our only option may be for her to runaway, but could she be taken back to the home and could we be in legal trouble for harboring a runaway? We fear that our youngest sister may start to give up because she has reached out to us for help many times, but we’ve been unable to do anything. I don’t want her to go into a depression and I don’t want her staying in the situation if she fears for her safety. We are in Carbondale, IL.

  • #2
    Thank you for reaching out to us and telling us your story. It sounds like you and your sisters are going through a very difficult time right now. We’re not legal experts here at NRS. Generally it’s not illegal for a youth to leave home, but their parents could file a runaway report, the police could get involved, and they could bring them home. If your sister is staying with you and the police find her there you could potentially get in trouble for harboring a minor, if your mother decides to press charges. You could consider calling your local nonemergency police department to ask about their policies when it comes to abused runaways. We also have legal aid resources here if you have specific questions about the laws in your state.” If you believe your sister is being abused you do have the right to report the abuse. If you haven’t already, you could consider reporting anonymously to Child Help by calling 1-800-422-4453.

    If your sister doesn’t feel safe and feels like she needs to get away provides a safe location for her to meet a staff member who can take her to a designated place where she can discuss all options about how to stay safe. She can text 44357 the word “safe,” and her location to find a safe location in her area. Once she arrives she will need to let someone who works there know she needs help connecting with a staff member.

    One service we can offer is to conference call with parents. This way you could have a conversation with your parents but you would not be alone. For example, it may be hard for you to explain why you want to take your sister with you or that she can trust you when they need a place to stay. Sometimes those conversations go better in a conference call because we can advocate for you and your sister. If you want to reach us, you can chat with us anytime at or call us at 1-800-RUNAWAY. We’re here 24/7, and we are ready to listen and help however we can.

    Again, thank you for contacting us. It sounds like you’ve been going through a really hard time trying to help your sister and she is lucky to have both of you. If you ever need anything in the future, please feel free to call us or chat with us online. We’re always here to listen and here to help.

    Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

    National Runaway Safeline
    [email protected] (Crisis Email)
    1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)

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