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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I can relate to "Had It in Houston" regarding their neighbor's unruly, undisciplined child.

"Tom," our neighbor's 6-year-old boy, has not only inappropriately touched our children on the school bus, but was caught touching the exposed genitals of a younger neighborhood boy on two occasions. He roams the neighborhood, uses foul language, openly hits his older sister –- and his parents appear totally clueless. For two years they've allowed Tom's behavior to get worse. The mother is rarely home, and she pawns Tom and his siblings off on our neighbors and us.

We are on the verge of notifying Children's Protective Services, but we don't want to start a "hate thy neighbor" relationship. They are already a bit "chilly" toward us because their son's behavior has forced us to send him home a few times. His parents have said nothing directly to us, but they criticize us to the other neighbors, who are well aware of the problem.

We've considered moving, but why should we go through the expense of leaving a nice area because of this family's ignorance and irresponsibility? Abby, what should we do? -- FRUSTRATED IN FOREST PARK

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Call Child Protective Services immediately. Don't put it off any longer. Talk to your other neighbors about your plan. There is strength in numbers. The boy needs psychological counseling, and the parents need parenting classes. All adults have a responsibility to save a child who is in trouble. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: In response to the inquiry posed by "Concerned in Pennsylvania," regarding adults who survived child abuse and how they managed: My siblings and I were verbally, emotionally and occasionally physically abused by both of our parents and a stepparent. I would like to share a bit of our story.

One of the most critical coping techniques for us was the love and stability provided by other family members, especially our grandparents, who offered us shelter, unconditional love, and bottomless encouragement and support. We were also very fortunate to have teachers, counselors and coaches who believed in us and lifted us up in ways that we can never thank them enough for. Finally, we had a deep-rooted, but sometimes hidden, faith in God, each other and ourselves. In other words, what some might call a "survival instinct."

In short, our survival and our thriving can be attributed to the willingness and kindness of adults who cared enough to help us in ways large and small. To those persons, we can never fully convey our thanks in words, but we can in deeds –- by becoming normal, productive and kind adults who contribute positively to society. -- A GRATEFUL SURVIVOR IN CRETNA, LA.

DEAR SURVIVOR: Your letter says it all. Thanks for writing.

CONFIDENTIAL TO ROSE PHILLIPS IN MINNEAPOLIS: Happy birthday to the most wonderful mother-in-law a person could wish for!

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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