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Social Services Does Not Exist

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"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.

Oftentimes, this isn't what happens. Many fictional parents believe that this is a load of poppycock, and act disdainful, neglectful or outright abusive to their children. Others (particularly in comedic series) are just Jerkasses, either through self-absorption or stupidity. These ones may just not understand that doing things like passing their debts onto their kids, arranging random and contradictory marriages, and engaging in thoughtless behavior toward their children could cause lasting damage. 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, many of these sorts of parents would never be allowed to keep their children. At the very least, some of them should 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 they usually do. Sometimes they can escape to Staying with Friends. Sometimes they're forced to stay in the Big, Screwed-Up Family. Oftentimes in comedy, it's all just Played for Laughs. Either way, the government isn't going to swoop in and help — not here.

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.

Of course, there were times in history when Social Services really didn't exist. Like all things, it had to be invented by someone at some point. If the child was lucky there would be a distant relative or family friend willing and able to take them in (and some of these instances resulted in spectacular good luck: see Emperor Justinian I). If they were not lucky, they would be forced to work, steal or beg in order to feed themselves. Religious institutions were often the only source of any help for these children, which was a situation ripe for all manner of abuses because the children had virtually no means of legally protecting themselves.

The tropes Beleaguered Bureaucrat, Department of Child Disservices, and Social Services Does Not Exist overlap since they all involve the same problems. Social Services employees are often overworked, underpaid, lack resources, and suffer the public’s wrath.

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, and when the incompetent social service agency in question is law enforcement, it's Police Are Useless. Often combined with Babysitter from Hell. One of the most common manifestations of this trope is Minor Living Alone, which the plot will often bend over backwards to try to justify (if they try at all).

Sadly, this may be Truth in Television in some places.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Somewhat subverted in Baki the Grappler. Baki's the son of a mentally and physically abusive martial artist who's never around and a rather cold and distant mother. His father only had Baki conceived because he wanted someone strong to fight, and repeatedly tries to beat him to death when he fails to live up to his expectations. So why doesn't anyone try to help? Because his father's the strongest fighter in the world, to the point where the standard procedure of the US military is to get out of his way. Nobody dares to do anything because they don't want to earn his wrath.
  • 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. Of course, this connection is eventually justified when it turns out she was his zanpakuto spirit all along.
  • Bokura no Hentai: Ryousuke's older sister died a while before the series began and his mom has since gone down a slippery slope. Their house is filthy and littered with junk, and his mom pays even less attention to him than she did before. He's taken to dressing up as his sister in order to comfort her. Subverted when his girlfriend finds out he's crossdressing then later finds out why. She eventually gets him to let her parents get involved. His mom is taken to a hospital for psychiatric help and he's sent to live with his father.
  • 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.
  • Case Closed:
    • 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.
  • Ceres, Celestial Legend: 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.
  • Chainsaw Man: After his father died, Denji was practically enslaved, from early childhood to when he was sixteen, by yakuza demanding he pay off inherited debt. There's every implication this was illegal (they made money off Denji's under-the-table Devil-hunting jobs and by selling his organs), but no sign of any authority willing to enforce it. When Denji becomes part Devil and cuts his way out of that situation, he's lost all his human rights, letting Makima force him to serve Public Service under threat of death even though he's still a minor.
  • Chivalry of a Failed Knight has two very notable instances. First, there's the main character who is treated as literally non-existent by his entire family, and its subordinate families because he wasn't born with a high enough "magic power" rank, and then hunted down as a "runaway" because he was driven out by his treatment until his paternal great-grandfather took him in and gave him food, shelter, and some honest-to-goodness actual affection, and his father absolutely refuses to even attempt to acknowledge how that is cruel. Come volume 6, there's Yui Tatara who is specifically trained to become a psychotic assassin starting at the age of three by her own family keeping her life in a constant state of peril, up to and including shooting at her in her sleep, and this is noted to be a "family tradition" going back at least three generations. You'd think with the very strict gun and blade laws in Japan, someone would have noticed...
  • 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.
    • Of course, considering he's, you know, the emperor and everything, even if there are child services in Britannia, they're not going to say a word to him.
  • Cooking Papa: There doesn't seem to be anyone watching over the Araiwas' son while both his parents are working.
  • Crayon Shin-chan:
    • In the English language version, 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 at 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.
  • 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."
  • Future Diary, 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.
  • Azusa's entire living situation in Gakuen Ouji is just downright absurd. He's basically a Minor Living Alone in an extremely run-down apartment. And he's so poor he has to sell himself for food, and has been doing so for years. Several people know about this and still do nothing about it. Of course, Adults Are Useless in this manga.
  • Good Luck Girl! 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.
    • There's also Ichiko, whose parents pretty much abandoned her for her entire life (16-17 years) because of work.
  • 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 nor 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.
  • The parents of Hayate the Combat Butler, who are 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.
    • The reason why they're so hard on Hayate and stole his paycheck? Hayate has an older brother who escaped their influence. They learned from their "mistakes" and made sure to report Hayate being underage themselves both to steal his paycheck and to destroy whatever credibility he may have had with the authorities.
  • 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 Inside Mari Mari's mother apparently changed her name partway through her childhood and this was allowed. There's also the part where Mari stays home for several days when she goes into a catatonic state and apparently her school didn't care.
  • 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 clues 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.
  • Isuca has all the main characters go through this. Shinchiro is all but abandoned at the family apartment, when both his stage magician parents go globe-trotting "for training" over an extended period of time. What's worse is that in the process, they also force him, a full-time high school student, to go get a job as well because they cut off his funds while leaving him responsible for the daily and monthly expenses involved in living at that apartment. Isuca's parents "go missing" seven years prior to the start of the story, (making them legally dead), and she has to live in a mansion, alone, taking on the dangerous job of "demon slaying," again, alone, because the rest of the family, save for her maternal grandmother, wants her dead or gone. Her cousin, Suseri, is forced to undergo a training regiment that would be considered felonious child abuse just about anywhere else because of her mother's inferiority complex towards Isuca's mother, up to the point that (in the manga, at least) she would put her own daughter's life in peril, without hesitation, for even the slightest chance to steal away Isuca's chances to take the title of Clan Head so that Suseri will become a Puppet King. Granted, Social Services probably aren't equipped to deal with the supernatural, but all the mundane stuff that these characters go through should raise some eyebrows.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 seems 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.
  • 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 homeroom 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...
  • Hayate Yagami of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, 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 girl. Granted this was part of an Evil Plan, so those in charge might be forcing the authorities to look the other way.
  • Kinjiro's mother (a professional wrestler) in Mayo Chiki! performs actual wrestling moves on him.
  • 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" Remark 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).
    • It should be noted that Konoha actually does have an orphanage, where Kabuto Yakushi was raised and where he eventually works as a caregiver, following his Heel–Face Turn. However, it's unknown if Naruto ever went there, considering his pariah status.
  • 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.
  • 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. Dadan, who is a mountain bandit that didn't want to take care of Luffy and his "brothers" Ace and Sabo, was a better parental figure than Garp.
  • Maron's parents from Phantom Thief 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...
  • 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 their 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, and Lola even elopes with Flint leaving their remaining kids alone with their second oldest to look after them until Brock returns. It seems that leaving your children completely alone with just an older teenage brother in charge isn't considered a crime in the Pokémon world. In all of these cases, Brock is pretty angry to say the least.
    • Lillie and Gladion definitely could have used it as well — due to their neglectful mother being a Workaholic (leaving their butler to take care of the house), Lillie is nearly taken by an Ultra Beast due to one of Lusamine's own coworkers and develops a fear of Pokemon with Trauma-Induced Amnesia while the experience scars Gladion enough to not speak up in support of his sister. Thank goodness they had some True Companions to help her regain her love of Pokemon.
  • Literally half the cast of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is living without parents or guardians. They're in middle school. While Kyoko's case is plausible, Homura and Mami live in their own apartments. Homura apparently registered herself in school after a lengthy hospital stay. In fact, the only notable family is the titular character's. Not that they can help their daughter much anyway.
  • Ranma ˝:
    • Genma Saotome, Ranma's father. 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. What's worse is that Genma is usually portrayed as a stronger martial artist than Ranma, and "for training" still engages in behavior that would be felonious child abuse anywhere else, like grabbing his food, and then eating it when he complains and fails to take it back in a short amount of time, laying the karmic debt for the collateral damage he causes on Ranma's head, and there's the infamous ending where he blackmails Ranma into marrying Akane by holding hostage the cure to Ranma's curse, which exists purely because Genma dragged Ranma to a Chinese training ground, and completely ignored the tour guide who said the training ground was too dangerous to use.
    • Ranma's mother starts out well. When she notices that Genma is trying to steal their toddler son away in the middle of the night, she screams, yells, and does whatever it takes to protect her son, including hitting Genma over the head with any and every little thing she can reach. Genma eventually convinces her this is a "necessary evil" for the boy's well being so that he can become a "man among men" and a productive member of society. It's perfectly okay for him to swear to commit seppuku if he fails, but expecting a 5-year-old Ranma to fully comprehend that his life is at stake as well, and having him sign the contract is beyond the pale, even in the most feudal of Japanese homes. What's worse, is that when she finds out about Ranma's curse, she comes at him with a sword, that she does not know how to wield, endangering not just himself or herself, but everybody nearby, and the police do nothing.
    • Soun Tendo, 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? Although to be fair, Soun Tendo does have some kind of income to provide for the family, but it's not stable.
    • 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 Hawaiian culture, he also abandoned his family to live in Hawaii for several years. He came back even worse. What makes it even more jarring, is that the abuse is not just limited to the Kuno family, but the entire high-school, staff included, is subjected to his antics, and not a single parent or member of law-enforcement intervenes.
  • 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.
  • In Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, pretty much the entire plot was set in motion by the fact child services seems to literally not exist in this universe, as protagonist Iruma was forced most of his life to serve as a near-literal slave to his near-lethally negligent and controlling parents, having him work numerous dangerous jobs from the moment he could walk and think for himself, leaving him to survive in the woods when not using him, and overall treating him like an animal for them to use and abuse rather than their flesh-and-blood son. All throughout this, every other human completely ignored all the hints about his terrible childhood, especially the fact that real-life Japan makes it illegal to employ anybody below 15 for even the safest jobs. It's quite telling that his life gets a drastic improvement when his soul is sold to a demon, as said demon dotes on and adores him as his adoptive grandfather, which Iruma very much appreciates, gaining a life in literal Hell that's better and happier than things ever were on Earth.
  • It's unclear how 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 rich man 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • 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.
    • Batman himself is one of the few superheroes to still consistently use kid sidekicks; however, with the increasing Darker and Edgier tone of the comics, it hasn't escaped many fans that letting preteens and teenagers (especially non-superpowered ones) go around fighting mobsters and supervillains must break several child safety laws. It's unlikely Child Services could even catch Batman though. A few characters have taken shots at Batman for his use of Robins but the issue is rarely treated too seriously.
  • Billy Batson, aka the first Captain Marvel, was thrown into the street by his uncle after his parents died, said uncle keeping Billy's inheritance for himself. At least his sister Mary ended up in an 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Numerous Harry Potter fanfics either subvert this trope or play it straight. It's double subverted in the crossover fic If Wishes Were Ponies. Harry believed this trope because he was abused by the Dursleys for eight years and no adult was willing to help him. He only started learning to trust adults when he ended up in Equestria (even then, it takes a long time for any adult that isn't a pony to earn his trust). It's later revealed that Dumbledore is to blame for this: he put a spell on the Dursley house that prevented anyone from removing Harry from their care (believing that this would keep Death Eaters from trying to take Harry). It actually prevented anyone from noticing the tell-tale signs of abuse and putting him somewhere safe. When Harry and Twilight tell their Muggle lawyer about the Dursleys, Lin Yueshi calls the proper authorities and gets them arrested, allowing for Twilight to become Harry's legally recognized guardian in both Equestria and England.
  • MLP:FiM fan fiction:
    • Quite common in many fanfics. Scootaloo is a filly whose parents have never been seen, so the fanfics are legion about her horrible or nonexistent family. It's always up to the Mane Six to rescue her, and one of them (usually Rainbow Dash) provides a home. Though they're almost always allowed to in the end, you can bet Rainbow Dash (or whoever) will worry about social services deeming her home proper; is the library good enough, can Scoots learn to fly well enough for a cloud house to be okay, etc? They're usually not so unreasonable in the end, but you've gotta wonder about the status of it if one of the heroes who has saved the world multiple times and a personal friend of Celestia has more to worry about than villains who use a child as a punching bag when it comes to being allowed to keep a child.
    • Sometimes, Scootaloo will be in an orphanage, but it's usually not an Orphanage of Fear — just not as good as having a family, which again, one or more of the Mane Six will provide in the end.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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.
  • At the start of Megamind, Megamind's pod crashes inside the prison, so the inmates take upon themselves to raise him. At no point do the authorities see anything wrong with this, or make any attempt to remove him despite him being a) a child, b) an alien, and c) not a criminal (at least initially). The only extent he's given any kind of realistic treatment is when he's allowed to go to a proper school — although given the premise, it might have been arranged by his "family" as well.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • From the adaptations of Carrie:
    • Carrie (1976): 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 original 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.
    • The 2013 remake 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 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York 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.
  • 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.
  • Trainspotting: Allison's daughter, Dawn, dies of neglect due to her parents being drug addicts... where was Social Services, who could've prevented this?

  • As pointed out by Gilbert Gottfried in the film about The Aristocrats, legal services doesn't exist for the sake of the joke as realistically, what's going on would land the man talking to the agent in jail and gets family services called on him.

  • There is a series of children's books by Barbara Robinson called The Best _____ Ever. The stories revolve around a family of children called the Herdmans. Their mother has been stated to be continuously working long shifts and is only sometimes seen outside of work and their dad caught a train years ago and has never been seen since. They have virtually no adult supervision and criminally, repeatedly beating each other up, setting things on fire, stealing, smoking cigars, have no apparent source of income, and live in a house that's a death-trap with a cat that's incredibly dangerous. CPS actually does have someone assigned to them, but she got caught in a pit trap by the kids and nearly scalped by the cat, and now she's as afraid of the Herdmans as everyone else. She drives by once or twice a month and assumes that if they haven't burned the house down or died, they're probably okay.
    • In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the Herdmans don't know the story of Christmas and have it explained to them by the Sunday School teacher. Gladys's reaction to hearing that Mary was dismissed to a barn to give birth, had to wrap Baby Jesus in rags instead of clothes, and a trough instead of a bassinet, is to demand to know where Social Services was.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Captain Underpants: The main setting is Jerome Horwitz Elementary School: a Sucky School where the teachers and faculty are allowed to terrorize and punish their students for petty reasons or just for their sadistic amusement. Heck, the first book has Principal Krupp blackmail the protagonists George and Harold into becoming his slaves for months. While the author Dav Pilkey provides ongoing meta commentary of the unfair treatment kids undergo when dealing with cruel adults in Real Life, the kids in his stories are given no salvation from the ongoing bullying they face from the faculty members.
  • 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.
  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society trilogy, the Rangers are loving Parental Substitutes to the Junior Rangers, but no questions are raised about how they got guardianship of them. Amp's parents might have made arrangements for him, but Kyle and Kirbie were literally abandoned nearby by their parents, and Lone Star, as soon as he finds them, promises to look after them, and that ends the matter. All the more so in that another character observes that being a kid superhero is being a Child Soldier. At the end, the Cloak children too young to have developed powers are taken in charge by some kind of social services, but the erstwhile Betas, none of whom are fourteen yet, are just allowed to move into the Cloak stronghold, with one Ranger also staying there.
  • In the Diamond Brothers mystery series, when Nick Diamond's parents move to Australia, he runs out of the plane at the last moment 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.
  • Roald Dahl stories like James and the Giant Peach and Matilda. As you can see from this, he likes this trope.
  • In Harry Potter, the Ministry of Magic doesn't appear to have any department specifically designated to the welfare of children — at most, an official investigating a different infraction might notice additional bad things going on in a home and try to do something themselves. The only time the Ministry looks into the life of "the Boy Who Lived" is when the Improper Use of Magic office threatens to expel him for using magic on Privet Drive. (And ironically, the one case where Harry did actually use magic 1. himself and 2. unjustifiably, he was let off scot-free.) This is in keeping with the depiction of government bureaucracies 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.
    • When Harry was growing up at the Dursleys, he was frequently bullied, Denied Food as Punishment, and locked away in a cupboard under the stairs for days at a time. Apparently none of the neighbors on Privet Drive or anyone from Harry's school thought anything of it. There is also a fan theory that Dumbledore was involved in preventing social services from being called, as being taken from his aunt's custody would end the protection from his mother's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In keeping with the time period they were set/written in, the orphan protagonists of Horatio Alger, Jr.'s 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.
  • 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).
  • Sadly true in Tamora Pierce's works, being set in Medieval analogues. In Beka Cooper, when three siblings lose both parents (one to jail, the other mysteriously disappearing), they're out on the street begging in less than a week, and only saved when their father is found. Even in the Circleverse, which is in many ways more similar to modern day, Briar was forced to become a Street Rat due to a similar situation.
  • Charles Causley's poem, "Timothy Winters" has the title character living in poverty in an abusive home, without public assistance.
  • 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 the novel If There Be Thorns, Cathy is aware that social services will investigate the family if she and Chris adopt Cindy (the daughter of one of Cathy's ballet students, who is terminally ill), and thus likely discover that she and Chris are brother and sister, not husband and wife. So she makes a private arrangement with the girl's mother to decree that she wants Cathy and Chris to be Cindy's guardians. But even this would warrant an investigation.
  • Zig-zagged in Whateley Universe; while competent Social Services offices exist, with agents who at least make a decent effort to help (e.g., the ones who got Jade away from her father), they are few and far between, and their resources are stretched to the breaking point. In some cases, social workers who would be otherwise competent turn on their own charges out of Fantastic Racism, and those who don't may end up hamstrung when the Mutant Commission Office and social pressure groups undermine attempts to serve the needs of mutant children. Even some well-meaning social workers can end up doing more harm than good, such as with Phase's caseworker.
  • The action (after three chapters of scene-setting) in Les Misérables starts off with a pre-teen Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread. He is the oldest child in his family, loosely watched over by a twenty-something uncle. His parents are gone. This is 1826, so child services or indeed social work have not been invented yet. Jean Valjean is sentenced to quite a few years in prison, and ends up doing hard labor aboard a merchant marine vessel. He attempts a couple of escapes, but they only result in years being added to his sentence: so that all told he is there for twenty years. His siblings starve, except for his sister who became a prostitute. At age eleven. This sounds like a Hilariously Abusive Childhood, except it's all based on real stories from newspapers at the time.

    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.
  • El internado: Las Cumbres: In a Boarding School of Horrors for "problem children", not a single adult reports the corporal punishments, students being forced to skip meals or to stand at attention under the rain, or solitary confinement in chilly cells, etc. Justified for the school doctor (even though Spanish law would require him as a health professional who suspects a case of child abuse to report it) because he is part of a conspiracy to conduct testing of a strong drug on the students without their knowledge
  • 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.
  • Ginny and Georgia: Played With as many fans wondered when DCS would show up, however, while Georgia may seem emotionally neglectful, she's never actually abusive and her kids are the center of her world. Still, it's odd after things such as Georgia having unsecured guns in the house, no one (not even her bitter enemy Cynthia) calls DCS on her.
  • 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. While they do end up going to family therapy in one season, it's implied that they scared the therapist so bad that he refused to keep seeing them. On the other hand, Sam's sister Melanie turned out fine, so Pam was either doing something right or Melanie simply got lucky.
  • Subverted in JAG, when Harmon Rabb seeks to be the guardian to Matilda "Mattie" Grace in season 9: because social services are very thorough.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mentioned early on in the original series as well. Logan chews out a social worker for not following up on a months-old report of child abuse, and she replies by showing him her computer to give him an idea of how big their "active file" really is. To Logan's credit, he does apologize, and there turns out to be a very good reason why he's taking this case so personally.
  • Married... with Children 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...
  • Shameless (US):
    • Played with. 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 realizes that the mess was caused by the Gallaghers trying to help some homeless kids and is so impressed that she gives Lip another chance. She even tells him the exact day and time that she'll return for her next "surprise" visit.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • There were a couple of cases ("The Bonding", "Hero Worship") in which young children were orphaned and it was weirdly unclear what was going to happen to them. When some incongruous member of the senior staff (Worf in the first case, Data in the second!) wasn't hanging out with them, these bereaved, traumatized, and parentless children seemed to be left completely to their own devices.
    • Toyed with in another case ("Suddenly Human") where a Human boy orphaned in an alien attack and then adopted by said aliens is slated to be returned to his Human family, especially after evidence of possible abuse by the adoptive father surfaces. Ultimately the evidence is ruled circumstantial and the boy is returned, as per his own wishes, to his alien family.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 favorites to such an extent that you wonder if Social Services might at least have placed Robert and Ray on an at-risk register...


    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 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • 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?
    • And no justification for Trucy Wright in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. 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 guardianship legally.
  • In CLANNAD, Naoyuki gets off pretty lightly, considering that his physical abuse ended up permanently disabling his son. Both that incident and the subsequent emotional neglect were oddly glossed over in the series.
  • Several substories in Disco Elysium follow a girl forced to work outside in freezing temperatures to try and keep her mother's bookstore afloat instead of being in school, and dealing with two gremlin children who actively interfere with the crime scene the protagonist has to investigate when they're not interfering with every resident on the block. The latter substory can result in the detective stealing drugs from one of the kids' drug-addict dad, possibly to give to the kid (who is a drug addict as well). Commentary from your police partner on the inability to really do anything for the latter two kids shows how much of a Crapsack World the land of Revachol is in after a massive world war it is still recovering from decades later.
  • 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.
  • Pokémon:
    • When you reach Sunyshore 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.
  • Rule of Rose: It's set in the rural English countryside in the 1930s, 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.
  • 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, 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, The Sims 3 seems to have fixed all of the problems with the social workers and children, but they won't do anything about teenagers though. Teens can starve to death and live alone, despite only being around 14 to 16 years old.
    • The teen example is justified; teens can cook, clean, hold down a job, drive, and care for younger sims; the social workers don't need to intervene since they can take care of themselves and any kids in the household. The same is true for child sims in Sims 1.
  • 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.
  • When They Cry: Played straight in Higurashi: When They Cry, with poor Satoko being an orphan at the mercy of her abusive uncle. Ryukishi07 himself used to be a social worker, and he apologizes in a side note for playing this trope straight.
  • Yakuza: Japanese CPS is, as mentioned in "Real Life", small, underfunded and generally good for absolutely nothing, but this series makes you wonder just how bad things really are. To wit:
    • Kiryu, Nishiki and Yumi grew up in an orphanage founded and funded by the leader of a major Yakuza group and, while not specifically intended as a recruiting ground for said group, it definitely became one. No-one complained, because when the series starts Kiryu is in his late thirties, and the orphanage is still there.
    • Haruka ran away from an orphanage when she was nine to try to find her parents, and, when both of them turned up dead, went to live with Kiryu, who is not related to either of Haruka's parents, as well as an ex-con with a murder rap. No paperwork was filed and no-one seems to care.
    • In Yakuza 3 Kiryu (who, just to reiterate, has done hard time for murder, was briefly the leader of the largest organized crime outfit in Japan, and only avoided spending the rest of his life at the bottom of a very deep, very dark hole thanks to a Friend on the Force) retires to run an orphanage in Okinawa. While the players will know that Kiryu is a Nice Guy and a Friend to All Children, one still has to wonder why no-one blinks an eye at a convicted murderer being given guardianship over eight children, or why no-one inquires about Haruka's legal status at this point.
    • In Yakuza 5 we see a number of idols in their mid-teens be solicited for sex by various power figures in the industry. No-one considers this anything other than "business as usual", when it should involve the police as well as CPS to get these children out of an unsafe environment note 
    • In Yakuza 6, Haruka ends up in a coma, and Kiryu, desperate to save Haruka's son Haruto from growing up alone in an orphanage, steals the child and takes it half-way across the country. The guy from CPS states outright that he only reason he is opposed to an unknown man who is quite obviously Yakuza walking out with a baby in his care is that he might get in trouble if the child dies, and even that objection evaporates once CPS guy has had a talk with Kiryu's Friend on the Force. It is also reinforced at this point that the reason Kiryu isn't Haruto's legal guardian is that he never formally adopted Haruka. This, in turn, means that Haruka has been living for ten years with an ex-con she isn't related to, and, even after the significant number of fairly horrific things she's been through throughout the series, nobody has asked any questions.
    • In Yakuza: Like a Dragon Ichiban was found in a coin-locker and raised by the proprietor of an upscale brothel. No-one seems to have had a problem with this. While Ichiban seems to have turned into a reasonably well-adjusted individual, he began his slide into petty crime in his early teens, and was headed pretty straight for an early grave before Arakawa found him.

    Web Animation 
  • Bee and Puppycat: Cardamon's mother is in a coma (and he appears to be the only one caring for her) and the only other person in his apartment is his dog. Nobody does anything about this, even when he takes over his mother's role as landlord, despite him being only elementary school-age.
  • RWBY: Cinder comes from a family who openly abused her, but no-one ever tried to remove her from that situation. Starting in an abusive orphanage, she's legally adopted by a cruel hotelier and her two daughters; they starve and abuse her, use shock collars for fun and work her until she collapses. The guests turn a blind eye, except for one Huntsman whose solution is to secretly train her for the Huntsman Academy entrance exam while expecting her to survive seven more years of abuse. Unable to cope, Cinder eventually snaps and murders them all.

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Confirmed to be teenagers; an 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.
  • Homestuck:
    • Dave Strider 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.
    • 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.
  • While they did exist, social services didn't do anything for Toki throughout the time she was abused in Flashbacks I until she was taken to the hospital for leukemia and even then Kaeda got off free for her crimes, as she was only charged in neglect. To make it worse, shortly after, she was sent back to live with her, despite that.
    • Considering that, in Toki's universe, there are plenty of orphans running around, one would think social services doesn't exist or that said orphans "fell through the cracks".
  • 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.
  • This becomes a major issue in the SuperMarioLogan episode, "Joseph's House!" (and referenced in later episodes). Ever since Joseph's mom died on October 31, 2015, he's had to live in the dark due to no one paying the bills, he has no running water, his pet fish and dog are dead, he has to steal money from his mom to pay for food, he has to imagine what video game to play whenever he plays his Xbox One, his dad is a zombie (and becomes a ghost not long after), and Screwball the Clown is his only roommate and living companion, but doesn't do anything to pay the bills. Adding to this bit, Screwball is a pedophile (Joseph is, apparently, one of the few he didn't molest), so that combines this trope with Police Are Useless.

    Real Life 
  • It is a common refrain that while Social Services do exist, they are not adequate to the task and many cases are handled too slowly or get 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 even harder to prove. The difference between, say, corporal punishment as justified disciplining or abuse can be highly subjective; for example, spanking is abuse to some people and normal behavior to others. Various forms of emotional abuse naturally leave no physical evidence and happen in private, leading to the parent's word against the accusers. Children themselves are even less reliable than adults as witnesses. The authorities may well try to investigate and prosecute only to 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.
      • There is also considerable disproportionate representation of minority children in child welfare, in the United States. The reasons are debated but broadly considered consequences of institutional racism. So perception of Child Services' competency and pervasiveness can vary between different communities that are divided largely by race and class.
  • 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 was the case early on in the US, as the story of Mary Ellen Wilson will tell you. To elaborate even further, there were no good child protective laws or agencies, this being 1874. So, with the help of the ASPCA's founder Henry Bergh, she was removed from her home, and her adoptive mother was jailed. Later on, Henry Bergh went on to found several CPS agencies, NYSPCC being the first.
  • 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. Her death is the reason for many mandatory reporting laws, and why follow-up is required in response to tips about child abuse.


Video Example(s):


"Mary Sue"

All Chosen Ones must either be raised by abusive parents or none at all.

How well does it match the trope?

3.6 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / SocialServicesDoesNotExist

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