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Social Services Does Not Exist
"My father and mother just sit around the house all day, seven days a week. My father likes to gamble on baseball, and my mother is busy developing an illegal ROM for cheating on slot machines. My father tells me, 'When I win big, I'll take you to Hawaii.' Then my mother says, 'Your father is not allowed to leave the country, so that will never happen. Ha ha ha.' Our house is always filled with laughter."

There is an intrinsic understanding throughout most of modern Western society that children are to be loved, nurtured, and protected throughout their childhoods by their parents. Parents are viewed as having a responsibility to ensure their child's happiness and welfare, as a necessary component to their healthy development into responsible and mature adults prepared to face the demands of society.

Parents in many comedic series believe that this is a load of poppycock, but this isn't usually due to malice or disdain for their offspring. They are simply such jerkasses, either through self-absorption or stupidity, that they don't even understand that passing all their debts onto their children, arranging random and contradictory marriages, and engaging in thoughtless abuse and neglect of their children could cause psychological harm. They aren't applying the rod to avoid spoiling the child - they don't even know it's there. (Rod or child, whichever.)

Needless to say, these sorts of parents tend to be the sort that would never be allowed to keep their children. At the very least neglectful parents would have to go through a few parenting sessions. But just as There Are No Therapists in fiction, there are also apparently no social services, either. The helpless kid is just going to have to grin and bear it - and because it's usually played for comedy rather than drama, they usually do. Sometimes they can escape to Staying with Friends.

The tropes Beleaguered Bureaucrat, Department of Child Disservices, and Social Services Does Not Exist overlap since they all involve the same problems. The employees are often overworked, underpaid, lack resources, and suffer the public’s wrath. They then turn into the Obstructive Bureaucrat and use Bothering by the Book to slow down the workload or get revenge on the people who make unreasonable demands.

There's also the matter of all those kids running around apparently without any parents at all.

There's a simple reason for this with the consistently abusive parents - the abuse is a big part of the series or movie, and if Social Services did step in and take the kids away, they'd probably never let them go back.

If it's a non-human species abusing its kids, it's Abusive Alien Parents. When social services do exist and are useless, it's the Department of Child Disservices. Often combined with Babysitter from Hell.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The parents of Hayate the Combat Butler, they're known as the worst Jerkass parents in the world. Due to the father's laziness and the mother's gambling habits, Hayate has been the primary breadwinner in his house since the age of eight. In the very first chapter they steal sixteen-year-old Hayate's hard-earned paycheck, lose it all on pachinko, then sell their only son's organs to "some very nice people" to pay off their 156,804,000 yen ($1,467,504) debt. And just to top it off, this happens on Christmas Eve. The mental scars left by his parents persist for a very, very long time. And this doesn't even include what happened with Athena.
    • Hell, Hayate's so used to his parents being complete jerkasses that he usually speaks rather casually about all the abuse he's been put through. Usually to the discomfort and disbelief of his listeners. The example speech at the top of this page was a cheerfully-read grade school oral report which left the teacher and the entire class in tears.
  • Genma Saotome, father of Ranma Saotome. He's a selfish and casually abusive father whose antics are played for humor despite having essentially ruined his son's life at every possible opportunity.That Ranma hasn't cracked and murdered his dad by now, or at least beaten some sense into him, makes him a possible candidate for sainthood. Of course, Ranma being a martial artist, he's tried beating sense into Genma's thick head, but it never seems to take.
    • Soun Tendo of the same series, while not nearly as much of a bastard as Genma, does almost nothing for his family other than occasionally bursting into tears, leaving his eldest daughter to run things. However; at the time the series takes place, Kasumi probably could legally have her younger siblings in her care as she's a legal adult...but how does she make any money?
    • Principal Kuno would regularly shave off his son's hair on a whim (and in hair-trimmer vs. bokken duels) and generally humiliate him. The anime expands this by hinting at physical abuse (flashbacks from the episode where Kuno and the Principal's relationship is revealed include Kuno Senior taking Tatewaki's food while apparently berating him, forcing his head into a sink so he can shave him bald, and tying him up and dangling him from a tree). Already a fan of American culture, he also abandoned his family to live in Hawaii for several years. He came back even worse.
  • Ryuunosuke and her father in Urusei Yatsura, often considered the prototype for Ranma, although Ryuunosuke is an actual girl who was raised as a guy by a dad who refuses to recognize that she's a girl, mainly because he doesn't think a girl can take over his precious tea shop. This has left her with rather bad gender issues; she's fully aware she's a girl, and wants to be a "real" girl more than anything, but her father refuses to allow her to wear female clothes or even talk of herself as being a girl, nevermind try and get a boyfriend or try to act like a girl... in fact, because she's spent so long being brought up to act like a boy, she doesn't even know how to act like a girl.
    • She also has an arranged marriage she doesn't want. Namely because her fiance Nagisa Shiowatara's father is just as much a loony as her own- upon having a son, rather than raise him as a boy, he deliberately raises him as a girl in order to match the "boy" that Ryuunosuke was raised to be. Unlike her, however, he does seem to know how to act like a guy, and he does realize that he's actually male, but he enjoys crossdressing. What makes things worse for her is that he possesses a number of ghostly powers, due to having died from eating sea urchin ice cream then coming back from the dead... though this also gives him some ghostly weaknesses, like being repelled by spirit wards. He's also, despite his Bishōnen body, an expert sumo wrestler and quite capable of beating her in a fight.
  • Gendo Ikari, as usual for Neon Genesis Evangelion, is an example of a normally comedic trope deconstructed into something tragic. At least he palms his kid off on someone who tries...eventually. Of course, given that this is post-apocalyptic Japan, it's possible that social services actually doesn't exist; and regardless, given that NERV basically is the world government, even if they do exist there's nothing they could do to stop Gendo.
    • Heck, given that it's post-apocalyptic Japan, they could exist, but since it's, you know, after the apocalypse, they're really, really busy taking care of all the no doubt millions of now homeless children and new adoptions. Some people are bound to fall through the cracks...
      • In the manga, Kaiji explains they had so many orphans, they had to handle them by large groups. It was so bad that Kaiji's group preferred to escape and try to live on their own.
  • Bleach:
    • In a typical comedic use of this trope, Isshin Kurosaki regularly launches surprise assaults against his son Ichigo, claiming it as a form of martial arts training. Ichigo only remarks on this as an unpleasant distraction. Isshin's far more likely to be on the receiving end of physical abuse from Karin, but he did at one point rip off his shirt and tell his daughters to "Come give your big, sexy daddy a hug!"
    • Orihime's older brother Sora took over raising her as soon as he turned 18, due to their parents' abuse and neglect. Apparently no one thought it necessary to remove Orihime OR Sora from an abusive environment before then, and after Sora's death Orihime lived alone, despite being in middle school. There is a vague Hand Wave her legal guardian is now a non-cohabiting aunt who provides some financial assistance. We don't have much detail on Chad's family situation except that he, too, seems to have had no living family and no guardian since at least middle school, and yet receives no attention from social workers. Even Uryuu lives in his own apartment rather than share a house with his estranged father, although we know Ryuuken keeps an eye on his son from a distance and presumably is still his legal guardian.
    • All of the Rukongai is a decidedly non-comedic instance of this trope. The society operates at a feudal social and technological level, so there are no institutions or services available for newly arrived souls to help them adjust, not even for the souls of children. Lucky kids land in a relatively peaceful and affluent district and are cared for by lonely adults (like Momo and Toushirou and their adoptive "grandmother"). The unfortunate are dumped in violent, impoverished areas and have to scrounge for food and form gangs for self-defense (like Gin and Rangiku). Hisana and Rukia's story is basically a cautionary tale in what the lack of social services will lead people to do out of desperation...like abandon your infant sister rather than starve.
    • Zaraki Kenpachi was the worst case by far. He didn't have anyone growing up and became a vicious feral Blood Knight just to survive. Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for his foes, he was incredibly strong even as a youth. Yachiru Kusajishi barely avoided this fate after being adopted...by Zaraki.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi: Kaoru's grandfather was apparently in the habit of beating the hell out of him with his cane while goons held him down and burning his deceased mother's last worldly possessions, just to show his tyrannical disapproval of her marriage to Kaoru's father. Kaoru should be nominated for sainthood for just running away without first snapping and murdering his grandpa, like any normal person would have done when pushed that far.
  • Binbou Shimai Monogatari is about 15-year old Kyou, who takes care of her 9-year old sister Asu without any help. She manages, even with the little money she is allowed to earn, but it's still a highly unlikely situation in modern-day Japan.
  • Hayate Yagami of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, who has been living independently for who knows how many years after her parents died. While she's shown to be mature enough to live on her own, and her mysterious uncle explains where she gets the funds for supporting herself, one wonders how no one thought that it might be a good idea to have someone look after a wheel-chair bound 9-year old Ill Girl. Granted this was part of an Evil Plan, so those in charge might be forcing the authorities to look the other way.
  • It's unclear how did the younger, sickly Hazuki of Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito had ended up under the care of Hatsumi, who is both parentless and mute.
  • One Piece: Luffy's grandfather was apparently dead-set on taking Genma Saotome's crown for this trope. His 'training to be a strong man', even if it was mostly played for laughs when referenced, was pretty horrific. Getting tossed down a cliff, put into a jungle in the middle of the night, tied to a balloon and allowed to float away, and Lord knows what else is strongly implied to have traumatized Luffy; he avoids thinking about what happened, and his grandpa is the only person he truly fears.
  • Code Geass. Emperor Charles is nothing but horrible to Lelouch and Nunnally (And in all odds, a few of the other princes and princesses of Britannia that we never got to see.). Their mother Marriane, however, was evidently a very sweet mother, despite her true nature, until she was murdered in the backstory. The loss of his only decent parent left its scars on both children, literally in Nunnally's case, and it's no coincidence that Lelouch practically reveres his mother until he actually gets to meet her again eight years after the murder and realizes she wasn't Parent of the Year either.
    • Nunally's blindness was caused by Charles's geass, not by psychological trauma. Her legs were crippled by bullet wounds. To his credit, Charles planned to abolish all human interaction and individuality, so he figured his parenting wouldn't matter when he was finished. Also, he was emperor of half the planet. Who had the authority to take his kids away?
      • There's also Suzaku, who, after the death of his father, apparently took care of himself for most of the seven years between then and the start of the anime, except for an unspecified period referenced in a Picture Drama where he was briefly cared for by an unrelated woman dubbed "Biker Gal" by the fans. In-series it's stated that his extended family basically threw him out on his ear when he applied for Honorary Britannian-hood.
  • The ending of AIR, where a depressed Haruko pretty much abandons her dying (and mostly bedridden) foster child Misuzu to the care of the wandering stranger Yukito. Despite the fact that Misuzu is the center of what amounts to a child custody conflict, her guardian pretty much running away, no one notices or does anything but the main character, and he doesn't seek any help either.
    • Although Yukito's probably the only one that would understand what's going on, anyway. And she might not have been abandoned, there's the whole two timeline thing going.
  • Loveless avoids the common partner trope to this, There Are No Therapists, by having Ritsuka go see one regularly to help with his personality change. However, it is very evident to nearly every adult that sees him in the first volume that he is being both physically and mentally abused by his mother and no one does anything about it! While his home room teacher attempts to help him out by trying to meet his parents, she is discouraged from doing so by Soubi and her faculty, and she generally has little to no success. This could be an example of Japanese social mores at work here, priding the notion of a person caring for themselves and outside help is unwelcome, making this a case of Values Dissonance, but still...
  • In the English language version of Shin-chan, Penny's father is physically abusive to Penny and her mother. Even though the police and school administrators know about it, nobody does anything.
    • Misae/Mitsy in both versions. If Shin badmouths her or just happens to be in the wrong place in the wrong time, she whacks him. One example occurs in an episode where Hima kept trying to steal a magazine Misae was trying to read. After she discovers that Hima drew in it, what does she do? Does she scold Hima? Hell no! She hits Shin for no reason, even though he just got home.
  • In Hell Girl: The Cauldron of Three, the protagonist Yuzuki's mother was allowed to die of wasting illness untended because her dead husband was (wrongfully) despised for causing the accident in which he died, despite little Yuzuki begging for help from neighbors and hospitals. And then allowed orphaned little Yuzuki to die alone, filling her soul with such hatred and denial that she became a candidate for following in Hell Girl's footsteps.
  • In Iron Wok Jan, Jan was raised by his grandfather to become a master chef. His training methods included slamming him against a boiling hot steamer if he kept tofu boiling for longer than a minute. He also would beat the ever-loving hell out of him with his cane, to the point where Jan's back is covered with scars (which at one point clue his rival in to the nature of his upbringing). It's also heavily implied than Jan never went to school, just lived with his grandfather learning how to cook.
  • In Naruto, it appears that, with VERY few exceptions, the titular character was all but socially isolated to the point of emotional abuse from very early childhood. And since the Not So Different moment with Gaara, fanfiction writers take it to the logical extreme, horrendous physical abuse is added on to the emotional abuse, making one wonder how Naruto managed to be as well-adjusted as he is if that's true.
    • There are a lot of orphans on the show, mostly because of the wars and rampaging demons that were around. A lot of them get adopted by Villains or turn into an Anti-Villain. The chaos might explain the lack social services abroad but surely Konoha could provide an orphanage for the children whose parents got killed in battle. Especially for their Person of Mass Destruction: Naruto. (and to a lesser extent, Sasuke)
  • Likewise, social services might as well be non-existent in Fruits Basket. The Sohma family is large and powerful and probably capable of bribing the authorities to ignore all the kids they've traumatized, the number of which could start their own national baseball league. But this doesn't help explain Tohru, whose mother was so incapacitated after the death of her father as to have forgotten to feed her 4-year-old daughter for weeks on end, or Uotani, whose emotionally distant and constantly drunk father fails to realize his daughter has joined a gang by the fifth grade. These guys give the NGE parents a run for the gold in the "emotional scaring" event in the Destructive Parenting Olympics.
    • One reviewer noted: "in the world of Fruits Basket, good parents are as common as penguins in the Sahara—every single one is either neglectful, smothering, unfeeling, abusive, misguided, or dead."
  • Ayashi no Ceres: Here is a 16 year old girl who's being actively hunted down by her own family in order to kill her while her twin brother is being held captive by said family and submitted to all kinds of experiments to force his alternate personality to take over. Not to mention the family then all but poisoning national water supplies in order to induce superpower development and taking the very few young teenage girls who manage to survive back to their facility, brainwashing them, and ultimately forcibly impregnating them.
  • Detective Conan: here's Conan, an apparent six year-old who's been abandoned by his parents for well over a year, living with a drunkard and a teenage girl, and witnessing/investigating several vicious murders a week... sometimes with his first-grader friends in tow (because therapists don't exist either)! This is all made slightly worse by the fact that Conan is in contact with both a lawyer and several dozen police officers regularly. There's also no mention that his parents, who initially had "gone to America and gotten in an accident", never came back to collect him and in fact have been doggedly coming up with random excuses for leaving him with the Mouris for the last 67 volumes.
    • Shinichi Kudo's situation before he was de-aged, in which he (a teenager) had been living alone in a giant house for an unspecified amount of time because his parents had decided to take an extended vacation.
    • Kogoro: the guy punches Conan in the skull for "playing" with the evidence, disrupting the case, and being smarter than him.
    • Hattori's father has punched him hard enough to send him flying. In front of several police officers. Of course, it might be because he's their boss, but still, none of them seem to even blink.
  • In Pokémon, you'd think that after Brock's father abandoned his family and his mother died left, the social services would help look after his dozen siblings, rather than just letting the teenager who's also holding down a job as a gym leader do it all by himself.
    • It's made worse, when Brock leaves his dozen siblings with newly found father, who is completely incompetent (come on, who would expect this guy to take care of 9 children). And it's later revealed that their mother was alive all along and wandering around the world like her husband. It seems that leaving your children completely alone with just an older teenage brother in charge isn't considered a crime in the Pokemon world.
    • Really the whole franchise. It's about capturing Monsters who have the ability to create near every element and snap an adult's spine with nary a wink, and that's not even getting into the legendaries (one of whom is basically God). Now remember the main character is 10 years old...
      • Additionally, the anime says this is something that most 10-year-olds do. It seems education isn't as important as collecting living weapons. And that some children are allowed to get jobs as scientists, as evidenced by Gary in later seasons (he's the same age as Ash). So you have people with a fourth-grade education wielding Mons of near-godlike power, and evidently getting jobs whenever they feel like it, training or no.
  • Maron's parents from Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne emotionally scarred their daughter by regularly leaving her at home alone at night as a young girl because of their jobs. Before she was even in grade school, they left to work overseas, and haven't contacted her since when the series begins. Miyako and her family might have been right across the hall to take care of her, but really, who the hell thought it was okay for a girl that young to be living in an apartment alone? By the time the series begins, Maron is a Broken Bird incapable of comprehending "love" because "no one taught [her] about it" and spends most of her time pretending not to be depressed and stealing valuable pieces of art in the name of God. It gets worse when you start thinking about how Miyako's father, who knows all about Maron's situation and sees her on almost a daily basis, is a police officer...
  • If not for this trope, Kanamemo would've been a pretty darned short series/manga. Kana is a young girl with no remaining family members and no adults looking out for her welfare. She runs off and goes around trying to find a live-in job with no one raising an eyebrow. When she does find somewhere to live, one of her housemates is a child molester.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Seto Kaiba was abused by his adoptive father, then, after the man's death, took over the guardianship of his younger brother despite being only sixteen. (Being a multi-millionaire CEO at that point may have something to do with it.)
    • In the manga, Bakura is seen writing a letter to his sister asking how she and their parents are doing, implying, naturally, that he doesn't live with them. Sure, his father is still alive and presumably sends him money and set up the apartment, but he's underage and living completely alone. Mostly to stop the Spirit of the Ring from putting other people in comas, of course, which just makes it worse.
      • Not to mention they never seem to care, although they might just not know, that their son almost dies more often than he should and went into a coma.
    • Raphael, Alister, and Valon probably would've escaped Dartz's organization even though he was the one that started each of their breakdowns if they'd had more support or someone to properly look after them. In both the dub and original Japanese, Raphael and Alister combine this with There Are No Therapists due to their misanthropy.
    • Jonouchi, at least in the manga, should've never been kept with his alcoholic, gambling-addicted, and potentially abusive father. He seems sane and optimistic enough, but one has to wonder about his theme of gambling and chance cards...
    • Somewhat justified with the Ishtars, (who, especially Marik, also clearly need some therapy), since they lived underground and cut off from society almost entirely and had other goals once they freed themselves.
    • When you really think about it, it's kind of the same issue as Pokemon. Kids go on long trips to play card games, cutting school and constantly getting themselves into deadly situations. Who cares? Apparently not their parents.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Jaden/Judai gets kidnapped for three days by an insane richman and nobody does anything about it. And there's numerous missing students, none of whom get searched for (no official investigation) and once some of them return there's no legal investigation about it.
  • Literally half the cast of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is living without parents or guardians. They're in middle school. In fact, the only notable family is the titular character's. Not that they can help their daughter much anyway.
  • In Grave of the Fireflies, Seita and his younger sister Setsuko are left homeless after the destruction of their home by Allied bombing and the death of their mother. Their aunt takes them in for a short while, but after leaving her house neither the police or doctors are willing to help them and they must fend for themselves, stealing food to survive and living in an abandoned bomb shelter by a river.
  • Kodomo no Jikan is full of situations where Social Services should have intervened. Reiji had a terrible childhood thanks to his abusive father and neglectful mother. He was then taken in by his older cousin Aki, who he fell in love with and had a relationship with before she died of cancer. Now he's the sole guardian of his younger cousin Rin, who he's trying to raise to take her dead mother's place. Then there's Rin herself, who has a huge crush on a man twice her age that manifests in truly disturbing ways, not the least of which includes a level of sexual knowledge no child that young should possess.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: While Syaoran had a butler in the anime to watch over him during his stay in Japan, he lived on his own in the manga.
  • ''Binbō-gami ga!: Ichiko's parents pretty much abandoned her for her entire life (16-17 years) because of work.
  • Kinjiro's mother (a professional wrestler) in Mayo Chiki! performs actual wresting moves on him
  • Cooking Papa: There doesn't seem to be anyone watching over the Araiwas' son while both his parents are working.
  • Kotoura-san: Haruka's parents may not have money problems like Hayate's, but their emotional abuse— not to say Haruka's peers' due to her telepathic powers— more than made up with it. She may be slightly more well-adjusted now, but nobody seem to raise eyebrows on a teenage girl literally living alone. To be fair however, Haruka's mother did attempt to see several doctors to discover what was wrong, but none of them could offer any help. She also did realize the evil of disowning her but by then the damage was done.
  • Mirai Nikki, one of the reasons Yuno Gasai is the psychotic Yandere we meet is because of the horrific child abuse her mother inflicted upon her, which includes locking her in a cage, starving her, and force-feeding her tatami straws for minor things like speaking out of line or missing curfew. Her parents never facing consequences is justified in the first and second worlds, where the abuse she suffered isn't brought to light until a year or two after she'd already killed them, however in the third world, Yuno's parents are not killed and instead stop abusing her. Whether or not the police or social services did anything about the abuse 3rd world!Yuno already went through is never mentioned, but the very fact that Yuno is still living with her parents implies that they didn't.

    Comic Books 
  • In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Johnny is the only person even trying to take care of Squee, and he's a Serial Killer.
    They aren't bad people. They love me. They don't really mean it when they tell me to get kidnapped.
  • Billy Batson, aka the first Captain Marvel, was thrown to the streets by his uncle after his parents died, said uncle keeping Billy's inheritance for himself. At least his sister Mary ended up in a orphanage.
    • After Billy became Captain Marvel, he managed to get around the subject by simply transforming into the Captain, putting on a fancy suit, and pretending to be his own uncle. It doesn't hurt that in his Captain Marvel form, Billy resembles his dad, so it's easy to pass off.
  • Something must be seriously wrong with Gotham's Social Services system considering how many of the rogues were abused. Riddler beaten for cheating? Two-Face on a fixed, drunken coin toss? Black Mask neglected by his socialite family? Scarecrow's grandmother used to lock him in an old church after putting something on his clothes to make birds attack him. Presumably he would have either missed school entirely afterwards or come to school with at least a few visible wounds. Surely that was an extreme enough case to get the ball rolling with social services even back in the day. But no... You just had to let him grow up to be a sadistic Mad Scientist with Mommy Issues, didn't you, social services?
    • This is lampshaded by Catwoman in the graphic novel Selina's Big Score. Selina, a straight example of this trope herself, had pulled off a multimillion-dollar heist, and gave a good portion of the money to her recently-deceased friend's mother and young daughter, knowing full well Gotham's social services are a joke.
    • Averted at least once when a social worker came to Wayne Manor to ask questions about Jason Todd's death and left vowing to save the other children (Tim and Cassie) living there. Then played straight when nothing came of it (because it's Bruce Wayne).
    • Also averted Pre-Crisis when Jason was taken by Child Services because Bruce wasn't his legal guardian. The papers were signed, but they weren't approved.
  • Justified in Runaways: No one ever realized that Chase was being abused because his mad scientist father found a method of beating him that left no marks.
    • Also subverted later, after the Pride were all killed off. No sooner had the kids escaped, than Captain America found them and put them all in separate foster homes. The kids all promptly escaped and regrouped, because they missed each other and found social services ill-equipped to help them get over the trauma of having one's super-villain parents being killed by Biblical giants.
  • Deliberately averted in Stan Lee's work for Marvel Comics: he disliked the idea of superheroes having juvenile sidekicks, saying that in the real world they'd be hauled before a judge for imperiling the safety of a minor. It didn't stop him from creating Johnny Storm.

    Fan Works 
  • Averted in the MLP:FiM fan fiction Our True Colors, Scootaloo and Pinkie Pie only wind up living homeless on the streets of Ponyville because they ran away from the officials who wanted to put them in an orphanage. By the story's end they've both been successfully placed in good foster homes.

    Film 
  • A Cinderella Story and Another Cinderella Story.
  • The Dead End Kids, in the movies Dead End, Angels with Dirty Faces, and just about every other film they appeared in. They're just homeless kids who live in the streets without any supervision, causing mischief. Granted, in Dead End one of their members does have a mother (but a Disappeared Dad) that he frequently ditches so he can hang out with the gang. Another member mentions having a father who's drunk all the time. They were often used in gangster movies to symbolize the kinds of kids gangsters were before they grew up and became criminals.
    • The exception would be They Made Me a Criminal, directed by Busby Berkeley (yes, THAT Busby Berkeley). In this case the Dead End Kids are sent to a ranch in Arizona by a philanthropic priest who hopes to reform them through hard work and good caretaking figures. Whether it works or not is up for debate.
  • Carrie: Even by the looser standards of 1976, there's no way that any social worker would let Carrie stay with a mother as abusive as Margaret. Might be justified in that Margaret, at least in the book, views the entire government (including, presumably, social services) as godless and Satanic, and would most likely react violently to any attempt to take away her daughter.
    • Very much averted in the sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2. Not only do social services put Rachel in foster care in order to save her from her mother, but the mother herself gets sent to a mental hospital for being Ax-Crazy.
    • The 2013 remakes notes that the state intervened to force Margaret to stop homeschooling Carrie. It's woefully inadequate, but at least they made an effort.
  • In a way, this is the whole premise of Gone Baby Gone: Amanda's mother is neglectful to a point that is just shy of manslaughter, but rather than alert the proper authorities the Anti-Villain takes matters into his own hands, abducting the young girl, staging her death, and secreting her away to live in safety. The author of the book the film is based on, Dennis Lehane, used to work with abused children.
  • Kevin's parents by the second Home Alone film have problems with this. Leaving him behind once can possibly be justified (particularly since the film clearly shows they mistook the annoying neighbor kid for Kevin,) but not keeping track of a child two years in a row simply because they were afraid to miss a plane? No one in the family notices a child missing for the duration of a flight from Chicago to Miami (and a child who's been missing before, no less?) And once they report it to the police, they JOKE about it (out of nerves, but still?) In real life, this magnitude of neglect would certainly prompt at least an interview with social services.
    • This would explain while there was no third Home Alone movie with Kevin.
  • In Stanely Kubrick's The Shining the pediatrician apparently doesn't think it might be a good idea to call social services for a kid who talks to imaginary people, has an abusive alcoholic father who is an emotional timebomb just waiting to go off, and has a mother who makes flimsy excuses for her husband's behavior. Especially after the kid was injured during one of the father's drunken rages and his talking to imaginary people started after that incident. And there's the fact the kid blacked out from the thought of spending the next few months stranded in an isolated hotel with his abusive father.
    • Justified in that children often have imaginary friends, and the father, while testy and shiftless, showed no signs of abusiveness until after they were completely cut off from all civilization with no way for any social services to even reach them.
  • Trainspotting: Allison's daughter, Dawn, dies of neglect due to her parents being drug addicts... where was Social Services, whom could've prevented this.
  • In Despicable Me, Miss Hattie's orphanage goes unpunished for her treatment of the girls there. It's not even labeled as a "girl scout cookie cartel" or anything similar.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter, himself is a victim of this. Surely locking a child in his room and refusing to let him out breaks some law. For that matter, did Social Services even know where he was, or do Wizards have the power to just stick people with horrible families with no oversight from Muggle government?
    • All government bureaucracies are depicted in the series as rife with misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance. JK Rowling has a rather low opinion of social services and the British government born from personal experience.
    • There's a rather depressing Real Life justification for this, however. In addition to the usual problems of almost always having a bigger workload than their manpower and budget is set up for, Social Services in the UK often have to contend with a popular perception that child abuse is the exclusive preserve of the feckless poor. "Respectable" middle class families like the Dursleys would be almost above suspicion unless the abuse became so violent that Harry required a trip to the emergency room.
    • If you saw a sickly little boy who regularly looked like something bigger than a dog had been seriously mauling him, would you try and do something about it? Because if so, it seems that you think differently than any of Lupin's neighbors did when he was growing up. He never mentions this having been a downside of being a werewolf, which makes it a fairly reasonable assumption that nobody responded to what would have looked like some form of abuse from the outside.
    • Also there is some, though probably unintended, Fridge Brilliance at work here which makes it a Justified Trope: Because, as mentioned by Dumbledore himself, the family bond between Harry and his Aunt Petunia protects him from the servants of the dark one, any attempt to take him away from his admittedly very abusive foster home would have jeopardized Harry's life. So it's not too far-fetched to assume that any attempt from social services to help the boy would have been cut off right from the start by a wizard using a memory charm or something similar, which they've been shown to do before with ease due to Fantastic Racism inherent in the wizarding world.
    • Despite this, there is never any excuse to leave a child in an abusive home.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaires go through a series of guardians who are either abusive or incompetent, and eventually end up wandering around on their own as wanted criminals. If there is any equivalent of social services in their world, it's too corrupt, stupid, or uncaring to do much. This however, is entirely fitting given the way adults are portrayed as universally incompetent or evil (or dead).
    • They don't seem to even have bothered to inquire after the three orphans, since it's left up to Mr. Poe, a banker, to handle their guardianship. Even though he surely has other things to do, and is clearly out of his depth.
  • The Bucket family in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is dirt-poor to begin with. After Mr Bucket loses his job, things get worse, but no one seems to notice the four starving grandparents confined to a single bed or that Charlie is looking a lot thinner and doesn't have the energy to go outside at recess.
  • Roald Dahl stories like James and the Giant Peach and Matilda. As you can see from this, he likes this trope.
  • While nearly every V. C. Andrews novel revels in this trope (except for the Orphans series, but just barely), Heaven is probably one of the worst cases. Heaven's father is an alcoholic who only comes home to screw his wife. When he comes home for good, he sells his children to childless couples for money. It doesn't help that Heaven tried to reach out to her teacher for help, but her teacher turns out to be incredibly useless, only taking Heaven and her brother out for an expensive lunch. You would think she would show more concern, since she knew Heaven and her siblings were on the verge of poverty and couldn't go to school every day because they had to work on the farm.
  • In keeping with the time period they were set/written in, the orphan protagonists of Horatio Alger, Jr. books tend to be left to their own devices to get ahead in the world. Charities exist, but are overstretched and can do no more than provide minimal food and shelter in bad weather for the children.
  • The Boxcar Children was written in the 1920s. Social services as we know it really didn't exist, with the exception of orphanages that focused on caring for the children they had, not tracking down runaways. The children are figured out and united with their grandfather in a matter of a few months, though.
  • There is a series of children's books by Barbara Robinson called "The Best _____ Ever". A series of characters who the stories revolve around, a family of children called the Herdmans. Their mother has been stated to be continuously working herself long shifts and is only sometimes seen outside of work and their dad has caught a train years ago and was never seen since. They have virtually no adult supervision and act almost criminally, repeatedly beating each other up, setting things on fire, stealing, have no apparent source of income, and live in a house that's a death-trap with a cat that's incredibly dangerous. Yet CPS never seems to go after them.
    • Subverted in one trip where it's stated that someone is told to investigate and actually does come over to their house. The result was that she fell into a hole and their cat jumped her. If she didn't have a hat on she'd have been bald. So she simply just checks by and makes sure that the Herdmans didn't burn the house down. Still; you'd think they'd call the police, but it's implied that most of the adults in the series are afraid to.
  • Averted in The Pale King. Toni and her mother simply avoid them by drifting around the country. This lasts until the mother is murdered by her boyfriend.
  • In Death: The good news is that this trope is averted in this series. The bad news is that the Department of Child Disservices trope is played straight instead, as Eve Dallas had to discover for herself as a child.
  • In the Diamond Brothers mystery series, when Nick Diamond's parents move to Australia, he stays behind and moves in with his big brother Tim instead. Tim works as a private detective, but he's so incompetent that they barely have enough money for food, clothing, or roof repairs. Actually, incompetent doesn't cover it; Tim appears at times to be borderline mentally retarded, and though he's a legal adult is clearly unfit to be the sole caretaker of a minor. Their parents are totally oblivious to the situation; they occasionally send cheery postcards from Australia, but rarely send money and never visit.
  • Played with by Ephraim Kishon: They do exist, but the young social worker Eva is clearly overstrained caring for Yemenite refugee Saadya Shabatai, his big family and his antics, and at the end, he ends up comforting and consulting her.
  • Averted in Pippi Longstocking. Despite that she's quite capable of taking care of herself, several adults do find it rather odd that Pippi is living by herself with only a few pets for company. Well-meaning but utterly clueless Mrs. Prysselius tries to get her into foster care but fails.
  • Lampshaded, a bit, in Stephen King 's "The Body." When Chris misses too many days, the truant officer shows up. If Chris has been beaten bloody, the officer goes on his way. If he's just skipping classes, the officer takes him back to school. The Narrator notes that no one questioned it at the time.
  • Sadly true in Tamora Pierce's works, being set in Medieval analogues. In Provost's Dog, when three siblings lose both parents (one to jail, the other mysteriously disappearing), they're out on the street begging in less than week, and only saved when their father is found. Even in the Circle of Magic universe, which is in many ways more similar to modern day, Briar was forced to become a Street Rat due to a similar situation.

    Live Action TV 
  • Pretty much any parent on Arrested Development falls into this trope, even the well meaning Michael. It can range from simply not listening or paying attention to their children, to openly ranking their children from favorite to least favorite, to adopting a Korean child to make their children jealous, to adopting a child to screw their rivals, to setting their kids up to take the fall for various felonies.
  • Supernatural: Okay, so it's many years ago and it might have been necessary but you would have thought that some nice person in a state somewhere would have been worried about the two young Winchester boys moving around everywhere and acting too old for their ages. Especially as their father is often drunk/neglectful/absent. And especially as their mother died when they both were very young. Although the frequent moves and constant use of fake IDs probably helped keep Child Services from ever catching up.
  • Based on the descriptions that the Bundy children give of their childhoods, it's a miracle that Peggy wasn't arrested for neglect. Not that Al does much either, but at least he has the excuse of being at the shoe store all day...
  • Played with in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where social services do exist, but the system is far from perfect and it suffers from many limitations such as dwindling budget, lack of manpower, and outdated/incorrect data. Many times the detectives stumble across a case that social services really should have picked up on, but the victims unfortunately fall through the cracks in the system.
  • Sam's mom on iCarly should've had Sam taken away from her on general principle after one of her many dangerous or neglectful episodes.
  • In Falling Skies, obviously the larger system has broken down, but once they take the mind-controlling harnesses off the kids backs there doesn't seem to be much effort to interview them about their experiences nor offer them counseling for what was obviously a very difficult experience. One is pretty much left to wander around the compound freely with a dazed expression.
  • In Justified, Noble's Holler serves as a refuge for battered women in the absence of any regional domestic violence centers. In turn when it comes out that Loretta's father is dead, Child Services does come in right away and put her in a foster home.
  • In Shameless (US version) social services do exist but they seem to have largely given up on the Gallagher family. The parents consist of an absentee mother and an alcoholic father and the kids have been taken away by child services in the past. However, it never seemed to stick and now Fiona makes sure that they stay under Child Services' radar.
    • In season 3 Child Services catches the Gallaghers on an especially chaotic night (Jimmy's father is illegally performing an operation on a gunshot victim in their kitchen) and the children are taken away. However, Fiona is able to clear the matter up and the social worker quickly concludes that the kids would be better off living at home with Fiona than being put into the foster system (Lip, Ian and Debbie are too old for the "good" foster placements). The judge also quickly recognizes that Frank is an extremely neglectful parent and everyone would be better off with Fiona assuming legal guardianship of the kids.
    • In season 4, Child Services returns to follow up with the family because of what happened to Liam. Fiona's in prison (she violated her probation) and Frank is in the hospital, leaving Lip to take care of everything. The social worker comes for a surprise visit and sees that the house is in chaos with the Native American kids, Liam, Carl, Carl's new friend and her siblings, and Chuckie running amok. Lip tries to explain and covers for Frank and Fiona's whereabouts. The social worker gives Lip another chance and tells him the exact day and time that she'll return for her next "surprise" visit.
  • Subverted in JAG, when Harmon Rabb seeks to be the guardian to Matilda "Mattie" Grace in season 9: because social services are very thorough.
  • Beacon Hills on Teen Wolf. Isaac's parents are dead, he is still a minor and attending high school, but it is unstated who his legal guardian is, and he alternates between living with Derek or Scott. Boyd disappears for several months, only to return to school and nobody seems to investigate what happened. Erica likewise disappears and does not return at all. Also a possible case of Invisible Parents and/or Parental Obliviousness.
    • Considering the extremely high death rate of Beacon Hills, it's possible Social Services is overloaded with work and/or trying to find "missing" kids and teens and that some of them fall through the cracks, like Erica, Boyd and Issac.
  • A borderline example might be the Barone family in 'Everybody Loves Raymond'', who leave their adult sons full of complexes and neuroses after a hit-and-miss upbringing. Marie and Frank combine My Beloved Smother with an emotionally illiterate father and play favourites to such an extent that you wonder if Social Services might at least have placed Robert and Ray on an at-risk register...
    SUCK IT UP!
  • Very averted in In the Heat of the Night, as Althea Tibbs, wife of protagonist Virgil Tibbs, is a social worker. Many episodes involve her helping the police with talking to the family members of victims, helping the kids at Sparta High, and random people in the community. Social Services is called in (from the big city of Jackson) as the plot requires, usually in the case of abandoned children.

    Music 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Wellington in The Perishers is an orphan who lives with his dog in an abandoned railway station. Somehow they seem to get along fine without attracting any attention from the authorities.
  • In Parlor, Bedroom, and Sink, the infant protagonist Bunky was often left to go on adventures on his own, usually involving the wicked Fagin trying to kidnap him and force him to partake in scams. His father usually isn't even around to protect his family.

    Video Games 
  • Children and Silent Hill do not mix well. Alessa was emotionally and physically abused by basically everyone in her life, Angela was repeatedly raped by her father, Laura is a (possibly homeless) orphan whose best chance for adoption was a terminally ill, bed-ridden woman who died a few weeks later, the children at Wish House were systematically abused for brainwashing purposes, and the Shepard, Holloway, Fitch and Bartlett families murder one of their children each generation. Needless to say (but it will be said anyway) social services is nowhere to be seen.
  • In The Sims 1, the Social Worker would come to pick up a baby who was starving, but wouldn't do anything about a school-age kid who was orphaned (or an all-child "family" that the player could create) — the kids couldn't even call one in if the house still had a phone. In The Sims 2, they shaped up somewhat, but they became a little over-responsive. They can take a child if they get a bad grade in school, so it's not much of an improvement. Luckily, Sims 3 seems to have fixed all of the problems with the social workers
    • They won't do anything about teenagers though. Teens can starve to death and live alone, despite only being around 14 - 16 years old.
  • Subverted in Final Fantasy XIII. In "Final Fantasy: Episode Zero", Lightning is actually given the option of accepting help from the government when her mother dies—the fact that she decided to raise Serah on her own anyway serves to underline her personality. The trope is further twisted when Serah is engaged to Snow: With a strong parental figure during her formative years she turned out just fine—Lightning is the one with baggage.
  • When Miles Edgeworth's father was murdered in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, he was almost immediately adopted by Manfred von Karma, the guy who killed his father in the first place. Did no one object to a ten-year-old being taken off to Germany by a man he'd never met who wasn't even an American citizen?
    • And no justification for Trucy Wright. She's an eight year old who's almost immediately adopted by an out of work disbarred attorney whose only tie to her is that he was her father's lawyer. At fifteen she's helping to support the family by performing magic acts around town. Phoenix mentions that there's no one else to take care of her, as her entire family is dead/missing except for an uncle who's in police custody at the time. He offers to look after her, and she accepts happily, and what with him being a former lawyer could probably get legal guardianship legally.
  • Tales of the Abyss has Anise being The Mole for Mohs because of her parents being too dim-witted to realize that their gullibility with their finances qualifies as Financial Abuse. However, social services probably don't exist due to the Score being in place and all.
  • Rule of Rose: It's set in rural English countryside in the 1930's, but it's still pretty amazing that nobody in the nearby villages noticed that the orphanage had gone Lord of the Flies and all the adults had disappeared.
    • Martha (before she disappeared) did realize something was up and contacted the police, but they dismiss her concerns.
  • When you reach Sunnyshore City in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, talking to Cyrus's old neighbors reveals that everybody knew about his questionable mental health and troubled home life even as a child, and nobody did anything about it. Zig-zagged and lampshaded in Platinum where you can find his grandfather living in the Battle Area, who admits that he also knew Cyrus was in a bad situation, and wanted to help, but never went through with it.
    • Pokémon X and Y introduces us to Emma, a sixteen year old girl who apparently has lived on the streets with only a Pokemon to comfort her for who knows how long. Looker finds this out and decides to take her in himself, instead of getting her proper help. It should be noted Emma apparently couldn't read a lick until Looker taught her to.

    Web Comics 
  • Played with in El Goonish Shive. Tedd's dad specifically arranged everything with social services to accommodate for the appearance of Ellen, Elliot's magically created Opposite-Sex Clone who for all intents and purposes came out of thin air. Played straight with the principal of Moperville North High School, who even the kids note should have been fired for incompetence long ago.
  • This is the only explanation for Namine, Sora, and Riku (presumably teenager aged) even being on Ansem Retort. Social Services should have been on FOX's asses the minute Kairi (another teen) was killed by a demon.
    • Confirmed to be teenagers; a oneshot gag has them trying to get their driver's licenses only for Sora to destroy the set of a hospital drama and kill one of the actors.
  • Dave Strider from Homestuck lives in an apartment where the fridge is more likely to contain weapons than food, any public space may become the set for puppet pornography, and his older brother may be lurking around the corner at any moment to challenge him to a sword duel. Explaining why CPS hasn't terminated Bro's custody yet is a major premise for fanfiction.
    • In a much less extreme example, Rose Lalonde's mother is perpetually drunk and somewhat neglectful. Since they live in an isolated house in a rural area and Rose is responsible enough to make up for her mother's deficits, it's easier to see why no one's ever reported this to the authorities.
      • Another possible explanation: Rose has a strong sense of pride and, we later find out, a certain degree of willful ignorance about her mother's competence and devotion. For all that we know, Mom might have been taking adequate care of Rose, Rose just refused to recognize it because she interpreted all of her mother's actions as condescending or sarcastic instead of affectionate.
    • Jade Harley has both of them beat; not only was she literally Raised by Wolves, but her Grandfather used to give her loaded guns to play with... when she was around five! This one is justified, though, because she lives on an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean.

    Web Original 
  • Alice And Kev, a story made using The Sims 3. Despite having an abusive parent, being dirt poor, hungry, and homeless no one comes to save Alice. This actually makes a little sense in-game, where social services won't help teenagers for whatever reason.
  • In the real world, the motions would have been set for The Nostalgia Critic to have been taken away from his parents as soon as he'd shown the picture of them tearing him apart.

    Western Animation 
  • Homer Simpson of The Simpsons is a close second for king of this trope, although to his credit he finally cleans up his act in The Movie.
    • This was poked fun at in a behind the scenes style episode, where the Running Gag of an angry Homer choking was a left-in ad lib casually described as a surprisingly amusing act of child abuse.
    • In another episode, this trope was evoked even when the law was involved. A judge emancipated Bart because Homer was such a bad father, saying she had no choices besides that and letting Homer keep custody of Bart.
    • Slightly averted in one episode where Social Services takes the kids away. However reason Social Services takes them away is because of several misunderstandings that were not the parent's fault, rather than the countless horrible things that the family actually have done.
  • In Family Guy, Peter and Lois don't start out so bad. But they degenerate into complete jerkasses, with Peter even stating he doesn't care for the kids that much. And Meg is treated absolutely appallingly in many episodes. In "Dial Meg For Murder" Peter lassos her, drags her down the stairs and prepares to brand her with a red hot poker. Turns out she's already been branded by the mayor, not that Peter cares. He also practices riding a bronco on Chris' back. Lois is more one for emotional neglect, only showing the slightest affection for her kids when it suits her. Even Stewie doesn't get off scot free, often left on his own for long periods of time, or with no company other than the family dog. Who is intelligent and can talk, but still.
    • An averted case is when Lois was hospitalized by Peter when he drenched her in hot cooking oil, when he was abusing his mentally retarded status. A child service man comes in to take the kids away from Peter, because he is mentally retarded.
    • There was also the time Meg pretended to be an unwed teen mother and claimed Stewie was her crack baby in order to get more tips. Stewie promptly gets taken away by social services into a foster home.
  • By all rights, the parents of Rugrats should not be able to keep their kids, seeing all the unsupervised antics the baby protagonists get into. For example, they often leave Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Dil, and Kimmie in an playpen that by all rights they should know that Tommy can easily break out of with his screwdriver, without ANY supervision-or if there is its Tommy's Grandpa who is a borderline Narcoleptic (he falls asleep at the drop of a hat). Or when they are in a store, they put the babies down-again, with no one to watch them, and walk off in the opposite direction. Or when Stu and Grandpa Lou took Tommy to the baseball game-he ended up PART of the game and nearly killed if he didn't fall into the Baseball Player's mitt, all because the two were too engrossed in their game, and it was caught up on camera and live TV to boot! Or when they took the kids to Reptar on Ice, the Kids managed to sneak onto the ice itself (and Tommy is barefoot, no pants or shoes for the ice itself) because Stu and Didi fell asleep during the show and Grandpa Lou was too engrossed by the ice show. Make a long story short, if they weren't in a cartoon all four/six of them would be DEAD due to the neglect their parents give.
    • This coming from the mother who reads PH.D Lipschitz books religiously. "How could this have happened?! We're always so careful with the kids!"
      • When they actually meet the author, he's left alone with Tommy and Chuckie and breaks down in tears because he has no idea what to do with them. And yet Didi continues to heavily rely on his advice for the smallest things, even how to feed her son on his first birthday, ignoring the advice of other parents with older children who have gone through what Tommy has.
    • Its ridiculous that most of the problems the babies face could be solved...if either Didi or Stu were watching the four (later six) of them at all times. Grandpa Lu, as Crazy Awesome as the guy is, is still a borderline Narcoleptic who falls asleep at the drop of a hat most times, thus leaving the kids completely unsupervised and thus, able for Angelica to bully, lie, and abuse them.
  • Sari Sumdac of Transformers Animated. Despite being the daughter of a very prominent businessman, no one in the bureaucracy has ever picked up on the fact that she legally doesn't exist. Moreover, when her father goes missing, not only is there no attempt to provide her with an adult guardian, but she's thrown out of her home by the business's new CEO. It's okay, though, because she moves in with a bunch of giant alien robots with no legal status on Earth. Yeaaaah.
  • Just how the hell did Mr. and Mrs. Turner in The Fairly OddParents leave their son in the hands of a sadistically evil babysitter and be oblivious to the fact that she's, well, evil? And they still neglect him when home.
    • Forget the babysitter. The Bad Parent Hunter once exposed them while they gave him a tube of acid to play instead of helping with homework like he asked. The Irony was that they said they had no time to help like, as they admitted, good parents would because they were watching The Bad Parent Hunter. And they only realized they were the bad parents of the show when Crickey (the host) caught them. Until then they just assumed Crickey was hunting the parents of some kid who looked like Timmy. Social Services never stepped in and there was even a video game version of that episode where one could play as Crickey beating Timmy's parents.
  • On Goof Troop, Pete gets away with such things as tricking his preteen child into taking over his job for a day, pressuring him into skydiving, threatening him in front of a public official, and admitting (or all but admitting) to being a bad parent in a courtroom and a hospital without even being monitored, notwithstanding all the health-detrimental forced labor that could have been caught if he were. PJ doesn't even hide the fact he's miserable at home, and on some occasions it's obvious he desperately wants to leave. It's too bad that the one episode that averts this trope instead uses Department of Child Disservices.
  • In Madeline: Lost in Paris, the antagonist had apparently been lying to the courts for awhile to keep the other girls locked up in the lace factory. Kinda surprising considering that, you know, it's FRANCE....
  • Pretty much every adult in South Park is an idiot who barely supervise their kids at all. Well, except for Butters' family, who are just completely abusive assholes who have viciously beat him on at least one occasion.
  • Mindy's mother in Animaniacs leaves her toddler in a harness attached to a tree and expects her dog, Buttons, to watch over her time and time again; she's otherwise unsupervised. Naturally, Buttons is the primary reason Mindy remains alive. Lampshaded when Mindy's mother leaves Mindy alone to go to a "better parenting conference".
    • Averted in a Slappy Squirrel cartoon where Slappy has gone insane and Skippy is removed from her custody.
  • Hey Arnold! is pretty bad - Arnold's grandmother and grandfather are incredibly weird, but Social Services never check up - although in the movie, his grandfather mentions that if they did step in, he and grandma would go into a nursing home and Arnold would go to a foster home (potentially because of their weirdness). However, Arnold really isn't that bad, given that his grandparents can care for him. Helga, meanwhile, is probably worse, given that her dad is mentally abusive (about as close to Abusive Parents as you can get while still being kid-friendly) and her mom is an alcoholic, constantly depressed and unaware of her surroundings, has no drivers license and falls asleep in weird places after making "smoothies".
    • When Helga goes in for counseling, Bob and Miriam lecture her and tell her not to blab anything because they can all be put in the nuthouse, implying that Social Services does indeed exist. Potentially, Miriam told Helga that she was just making "Smoothies" so that people wouldn't find anything wrong if she mentioned it in school.
      • Olga, her elder sister is probably even worse due the high expectations they have for her. She describes herself as a wind-up doll.
    • Plus, Stoop Kid. A kid who has apparently never left his stoop and appears to be in his teens. He's well known around the neighbourhood...why didn't nobody call CPS? If there's anyone who needed CPS the most in this series, it's Stoop Kid. Helga may have Abusive Parents and Arnold may have Parental Abandonment, but Helga at least has access to food (most of the time) and Arnold at least has grandparents who love him very much and are able to provide for him.
  • Mako's and Bolin's Back Story in The Legend of Korra implies there is no Social Services in Republic City, as "death of parents" = "orphans out on the street."
  • Teen Titans: Five teens, the oldest of which is about 17 and the youngest about 15, living together in a T-shaped tower playing video games all day, never going to school, and putting their lives in danger on an almost daily basis, all without any sort of adult supervision. Scratch that, they had a "mother" in one episode, but she turned out to be a three-eyed monster that was brainwashing them using demonic pie.
  • Suga Momma in The Proud Family certainly treated Oscar pretty poorly. Likewise, Oscar does do some pretty terrible things to Penny, but most of the abuse Penny faces comes from her peers rather than her parents.
  • Averted in Lilo & Stitch, in which Nani has to keep a job and provide a suitable home environment to keep Social Services agent Cobra Bubbles from taking Lilo away, and even does at one point. But he's not treated as a villain for this, instead shown to be a man doing his job to give Lilo a proper home.

    Real Life 
  • It is a common refrain that while Social Services do exist they are not adequate to the task. Cases being handled only slowly or getting lost in the bureaucracy. This can arise from insufficient funding, poor management and oversight, or the simple fact that even without those obstacles the work is grueling, difficult, often thankless, and not a high prestige occupation so there are simply not enough social workers to go around.
    • Furthermore abuse can be difficult to define and harder to prove. The difference between say corporal punishment as justified disciplining or abuse can be highly subjective, for example even spanking is abuse to some people. Various forms of emotional abuse naturally leave no physical evidence and happen in private leading to just the parent's word agains the accusers. Children themselves are even less reliable then adults as witnesses. The authorities may well try and discover they have no leg to stand on legally.
    • Finally even when services exist many people are afraid to call. Fearing retaliation by the parents in question, an Abuse Mistake, or generally just making a fuss. There is considerable social inertia to not interfere with parenting much less separate a child from their mother or father.
  • A more literal Truth in Television for much of the world. Various places may well not even have such agencies or are so underfunded and understaffed they effectively don't exist.
  • This is a major source of Values Dissonance between Western countries and Japan. In Japan, in the interests of social harmony, the basic rule regarding abuse, neglect and bullying is "don't make waves." In Western countries, other authority figures will step in relatively quickly (in theory). Of course there are always exceptions.
    • Japan's foster care system is tiny and pretty shit, largely because most potential foster parents consider it such an insult to be subject to government oversight that they drop the whole thing, and back before there was oversight (late forties/early fifties) the abuse problems were truly horrific. Historically they had a flourishing fostering system, but that was a way for rich people to get excess offspring out of the way while training up their heirs. Some of the old fostering villages take orphans for the government these days, but not nearly enough.
  • Author and motivational speaker David Pelzer made his name with memoirs of his abusive childhood. While he did get rescued by Social Services eventually, they seemed to have not kept an eye on him at all despite how often he came to school with his various bodily injuries and signs of starvation. According to him anyways, his work has been criticized as exaggerated or inaccurate as the tale is remarkably clear on some points but lacking in certain details that would make it verifiable. His brother Richard supports the tale having become a victim after his brother, but other family members have denied it.
  • When Sylvia Likens was being tied up and tortured in Gertrude Banizewski's basement, Jenny Likens wrote to their older sister Diane, pleading for help. Diane initially assumed that Jenny was just kicking up a fuss because she didn't like being left while their parents were traveling, but finally stopped in to check up on the girls. She arrived to find that Sylvia had "run away", according to Gertrude, and Jenny was too afraid to talk to her. When she contacted social services, they failed to help at all.

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