Do you ever have the right to intervene in your children's choice of friends? What about when safety is an issue?
The territory between the right to choose personal friendships and parental responsibility for children's safety can be fairly murky. It can certainly fuel some tense family struggles.
When a parent asks themselves "Is that kid a good friend for my child?" there is no convenient one-size-fits-all answer. The details of each situation will be different. Appropriate responses will depend on factors like the age of the child, the specific nature of the parent's concern, the values of the families involved and how the parent and child are getting on at the time.
What is the heart of your concern? Look at safety first. How do you respond to a friendship that is taking your child into a family home where you have serious concerns for their safety?
What effect might it have on your child if they see violence or abuse in their friend's family? Will the violence spill over to include them? You need to consider what the risks to your child are, and how you can ensure their safety.
It might be that your first reaction is to not want to do anything. You may find it hard to believe, especially if the family concerned doesn't fit in with common stereotypes of family violence.
Once past your disbelief you may feel you want your child to have nothing to do with the situation. Cutting off all contact is one option, but it is not the only option.
Cutting off may not be a very practical option if the children are good friends with lots of activities in common. Your child may find themselves torn between going along with what you want and loyalty to their friend. If they see you as an obstacle to their friendship, it may make it harder for them to ask you for help if they find they need it.
You might try talking with your child about what they have seen. How did they feel about it? What does their friend say about it? Is that what they want for their own life? What do they think about that kind of behaviour?
Let them know that you are concerned for their safety, and see if you can talk through the different possible ways of dealing with the situation together. Ask about their concerns. They may be worried that there will be consequences for their friend. They may worry that action you take will have a negative impact on the friendship itself.
You and your child could agree that they see their friend at your place and on neutral territory. You could talk to Child, Youth and Family Services or to local community agencies about the situation. There are a range of possibilities and it is important to try to find options that will work, that will be safe, and that help your child to cope with a situation they may find very difficult.