Should I consider taking in a teenaged niece or nephew?

This is entirely hypothetical, because I seriously doubt my dad would ever have the balls to go for custody. But my mom and I were talking about it last night, and frankly it would be the best thing we could do for the kids, and for my parents. Let me background.

I’ve talked about my adoptive half-brother the evil sociopath a few times on this board. His hold over my dad is mostly his three children. Dad has finally figured out that the man himself is a waste of air that other people could be breathing, but he won’t do anything to hurt the kids. For the past couple of years after my brother (let’s call him Mark for fun) lost his job (he said he got laid off, we found out he got fired) my dad’s been paying most of the bills. Which he did before anyway, and thievery, and identity theft, and you don’t even want to know. But let’s say that Mark has been a shady financial burden on my family all my life. (He’s 17 years older than I am, which, holy crap, means he’s nearing 50.)

Recently, Mark has found a whole new game to play - let’s go to the hospital! A few weeks ago he finally got a job and my dad has been sleeping through the night for the first time in ages. Mark is addicted to painkillers, which he sometimes scams off my dad, who has severe back pain. Mark found out that if he played the Suicide Attempt game he got a week in the hospital away from the wife (who has her own mental and medical problems) and especially the kids. Hell, if I had three kids I didn’t give a shit about I’d want to get away from them too. My dad optimistically thought attempt 1 would scare him straight - yesterday, it happened again. The story doesn’t even make sense - he’s definitely in the locked ward again but all I heard was some jumble about blood pressure medication. Whatever. The mechanics of what’s going on are not the issue - the thing is, he actually admitted to my dad that he did it to get away from the family this time.

So. The girl is 15 and the boys are 13 and 12. The youngest boy has some developmental problems. The girl I’ve talked about before - she’s an absolute trial. Not that I don’t get that she has an awful family, but that doesn’t make her pleasant to be around.

Mom and I think that she and my dad should sue for custody. This is going to happen again - you know it is. Their mother can’t deal with it at all - she can barely deal with herself. She has very little short term memory and really shouldn’t be at home alone with the kids in the first place. She can’t drive. All their bills and everything else are currently being paid by my parents.

I don’t even know if it’s possible for my parents to get custody in this situation. The thing I really need advice on is this - if they did, they couldn’t handle it. My dad is 79 and in poor health, and my mom is 69. They’d have to move back to town - currently they split the year between here and Florida. And they really can’t be expected to handle three teenagers, one of whom is a really good kid but two of whom have problems of some sort. I think they could take any given two, you know? Either the boys, who are very good together, or the girl and the youngest boy, who is very sweet but needs extra help. (Not a lot of extra help, just a little.) The way I see it, I’d almost have to take the girl (urgh) or the middle boy.

It would be the best thing for the kids, to have a stable home life where they’re cared for properly. But is it even humane to break them up like that? (I mean, my parents live three miles down the road, and I’m sure something could be done about the school districts, but still.) The parents set them against one another at home - they essentially model behavior that encourages the two older kids to pick on the younger special needs one. They might frankly do better with some distance, but I don’t know that that’s the right thing to do.

And more importantly, I don’t know dick about raising a teenager. If it’s the right thing, I’ll do it. I think my boyfriend would move out, and I might even lose the relationship, but I have a responsibility to these kids. I mean, even if they weren’t family - they hardly stand a chance where they are. I don’t know what the hell I’d do with the kid, but I could provide a stable home where the lights stay on and the food is healthy and the homework gets done before the Xbox goes on at least. And where the animals aren’t disposable and if we have a dog we don’t get rid of it by dumping it in the country when we get tired of it.

I guess I’m just kind of thinking “out loud” here, but I think I need some feedback from somebody who isn’t close to this - is it absolutely insane and cruel for me to even consider fighting to get one of these kids?

Based one what you’ve posted here, I don’t think any judge in his right mind would take these kids away from their parents, split them up, and give some of them to their elderly, infirm grandparents and some to their childless aunt. You haven’t given any indication that there is abuse or neglect, just some sub-optimal parenting. It doesn’t even appear from your post that you know the kids very well, or have spent much time with them.

Plus the kids are old enough for their wishes to be given quite a bit of weight. Has anyone thought to ask them what they think? I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but this sounds like a terrible idea. If you’re really concerned about the kids, spend more time with them and suss out the situation a bit more before you start running off half cocked.

I agree, spend time with them. Take them out school shopping, teach them to play tennis, take them to the movies, whatever you can do to spend time with them and show them a normal relationship. Either do it with them one at a time or all together, whatever works. If they get along with you well enough, they may choose to spend more time with you and gradually move on over.

Uh no to the first 2 responses. This is a mess. I am sure social services would be interested in the situation. This is not “suboptimal parenting”, it is a death sentence. This, as you can see, crosses generations into the next. Here is your chance to break the cycle. Give a call to local social services, read them what you wrote here, and go from there…

I have no idea where you’re getting that this is a “death sentence”. I don’t see anything on the face of what the OP has posted that would indicate that. All I’m really getting from the OP is that her brother is a jerk that has personal problems and that his wife is flaky and can’t drive. There may be more to it than that, but based on what Zsofia has posted, I don’t think this is a situation that warrants removal of the children.

If you really wanted to do something besides gossip about your brother and his wife, a call to child protective services would be your first move. As bad of a rep as they have, their first goal really is to protect the children, and they have much more expertise than relatives in determining the best interests of them. And if they feel that the children should be removed from the home, the extended family will be the first place they will consider for placement.

My dad would never accept the involvement of DSS. When they were about to have the third child, Mark and his wife told my dad they were thinking of adopting him out and my father was furious. I think it’s always haunted him (the special kid could have been a wanted child all his life and that drives me absolutely bonkers) but he’d never allow them to go into foster care.

Obviously there’s more to it than I’ve posted - the house is a wreck, there’s cat shit everywhere, their animals are unaltered, and the biggest thing is that I’m not fucking kidding when I say Mark is a fucking sociopath. He’s a thief, a liar, and and an all around Very Bad Guy. If I went into everything Mark has done in his life you quite frankly wouldn’t believe me.

Seriously, they would award custody to the guy who keeps “attempting” suicide and ending up in the hospital and his wife who’s on full disability and seriously fucked up? Not that we’re even discussing the legalities of the thing.

Obviously there a lot of factors involved in a decision like that, but basically I get the idea that CPS or whatever they’re called in various areas don’t really care about parents’ personalities, or lifestyles, or shortcomings. Are the children suffering- that’s what it comes down to. Do you have any concrete evidence or have you ever even observed for yourself that they are, like that they don’t get enough to eat, aren’t supported by the parents enough to be able to attend school, are hit or even verbally abused? If so, then I definitely encourage you to do whatever is needed to help them, up to and including calling CPS, regardless of what your dad thinks of them.

Perhaps I’m totally misremembering, but aren’t you the poster whose boyfriend has like 5 failing businesses, is running for office, etc. all while you struggle to support the two of you? I’m not trying to be snarky, but that is just the Cliff Notes version that’s in my head.

If I’m remembering correctly, then in addition to what everyone else has said, I would say your home lacks stability too. Definitely call CPS if the kids are in that sore of shape, because without that involvement, I can’t imagine a judge removing the kids from their home anyway.

Financial problems aren’t indicative of poor parenting. People living in poverty are capable of being good parents. As if it matters, considering the OP doesn’t have children and isn’t considering adopting these kids herself.

You did read the thread title, didn’t you?

Well, while folks are certainly welcome to have children whenever they like, I think most of us here would agree that we should try to have the most stable life we can before we bring children into the picture. Sure, I could go get pregnant tomorrow and- odds are- my kid would be fine, but that doesn’t make it an ideal situation.

Now, my advice was simply that if she is the poster I’m thinking of and her life is as unstable as I think it is (I might be totally wrong)- then this might be a bad move for her. Not just financially, but an unstable life is a stressful life. Adding stress to that mix. . . I dunno.

I don’t see why bringing the law into it is even necessarily required.

Sue for custody? How about just talking to the kids’ parents? It sounds like they know they’re not doing right by the kids, and their own lives are wrecked. Why not just ask them if they’d consider letting the kid(s) come stay with you for, say, a year (through the end of the school year, at least), and see how things go? Have them sign a simple document authorizing you or your parents to make emergency medical decisions during a specified time frame, but not actually yielding any parental rights. It needn’t be posed as a permanent thing. Would they really object to one or more of their kids getting into a better situation, and easing the burden on all of them?

I’ve heard of a couple families that did similar things and made them work (in fact, the arrangements became permanent), without ever having any formal legal proceeding.

In fact, I’d be willing to immediately ship you my 11 year-old, for a sort of a practice run, to get you used to it. :smiley:

I didn’t get 5,000 posts by paying attention or reading things, young lady.

Most children in the United States aren’t born to parents that meet your standards. Most children aren’t planned or expected.

And I never said that they were, my dear. The fact of the matter is, though, that if you’re an thoughtful, responsible creature and you’re given the choice to bring a child into an unstable situation, well, there ya go. The key there is choice. I can bring a child into my situation right now (it’s not all that bad), but because I realize that would be unfair to a child, I take birth control until my life is a little more child-appropriate. If someone asked me if I wanted to adopt tomorrow, I would say no for the same reason.

Children can get by just fine on next to nothing. That’s not the point and you know it.

Thing is, sweetcheeks, these children are already in an unstable environment. It sounds like moving in with the OP would be a step up from what they’re currently dealing with.

If the situation is as bad as the OP is suggesting, then the authorities need to be involved. If the OP is a safe, stable environment for the kids, then one or more of them will be placed with her. Blam, easy enough.

I was simply offering up to the OP my immediate thought on reading the thread- because if she’s who I think she is- she’s talked about being stressed by her situation before. There’s nothing wrong with her taking that into consideration in her decision.

tweet Flag on the field! You didn’t call him a condescending pet name! Two minutes in the penalty box!

To the OP, child services really do need to be involved if it’s as bad as you think.

A few years back when I was involved in a big brothers type program, I’ve seen families that were 100 times worse than this and they parents never lose custody.

Family services does everything possible to keep the family together. You might win a temporary custody, but as one poster said, the kids will have a say. If the children are being fed, clothed, and sent to school to minimal standards, that’s all the parents have to do.

No one says parents have to give their kids a nice upbringing or even a medicore upbring. As long as the parents and home meet minimal standards you’ll have issues.

What you’d most likely wind up with is temporary custody of the kids. And if this guy is going to the ER and scamming doctors he’s liable to resue you constantly for the fun of it. So you’ll be facing financial costs

Call family services of your state and inform on them. You usually can do this anonymously.

They will come in assess the situation and possibly remove the children temporarily. If you want you can, at that point, volunteer to keep the kids during this temporary time. This could be a good “trial period.”

Then the parent has to prove he/she meets the minimal standards to get the kids back. If the state returns these children, then if you still want custody, get a good family lawyer who will assess your chances.