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Old 08-21-2010, 08:43 AM
Location: Business ethics is an oxymoron.
1,671 posts, read 2,079,587 times
Reputation: 3266


This one is a doozy. I don't know what to do here. I'm not sure there's anything I can do. But by asking here, I have nothing to lose. It could very well be a Gordian Knot dilemna-that is a situation unsolvable on its own terms. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Here's the simple scenario: A relatives child wants to become ours.

What do we do? Now, here's the background and particulars. Take a few minutes. It's kind of complex.

First, about me.

I am two months from 37 years old. My wife, six months younger. We have been married since mid 2007. We don't have any children. It's not that we don't want them nor is money an issue. The main barrier here is with her: it's doubtful that she physically capable of bearing a child.

I have no brothers or sisters. But I do have a close first cousin (although she is not my sister, genetically, she could be inasmuch as we had the same grandparents: my father is her mothers brother and her father is my mothers brother. Get that?). She is two years my junior and we sort of grew up together. However, years ago, we sort of drifted apart. She got married and started a new family. About 6 years ago, I decided that I wanted to reconnect with her and her family. Thing is, we lived over 200 miles apart. Nevertheless, I made a point of travelling to visit them and get to know them as many times as I could. As I was deciding to marry my then-future wife, I started bringing her along and getting her exposed to and used to the family. My long term goal was to eventually settle in and be a part of my cousins family. I got close to the kids-being a sort of favorite uncle and everyone loved my wife, telling me she was a good woman...all of that noise.

So we get married and continued attending birthdays, holidays, and weekend trips whenever we could.

Anyway. My cousin has a large family: more than a dozen children-a mix of biological and adopted.

Finally, early last year when everything at last lined up correctly, my wife and I were able to buy our first house. 50% of our decision making process was predicated on being in close proximity to my cousin and her family. Indeed, we found the perfect little house for us just two blocks away. Paperwork closed, we got the keys, and have been moved in since last June. We couldn't be happier.


A few weeks ago, we get the news that it's official: my cousin and her family are moving away. For job purposes (a dubious claim IMO, but that's another story). Ironically, they are moving not too terribly far from where my wife and I came from.

Now back to the children. Although we love them all, we have a sort of soft spot for one in particular (the subject of this post). Her name is Rachel. She is a young teenager and adopted from Eastern Europe. That poor girl has seen more adversity than anyone has a right to: her mother committed suicide (on the second attempt), and her first adopted family here didn't want her, so they abandoned her when my cousin 'rescued' her. She has largely become "Americanized", but has two very distinct personalities. One, when she's at her house with all of the other kids and commotion, she's very withdrawn, cranky, shy, snippy, and just a general bad disposition. She smiles and socializes occassionally, but it's pitifully obvious to even a casual observer that she's absolutely miserable there.

Although her adpted mother and father do provide for them in the sense of a nice home, all of the clothes and food and other necessities (they all get good grades in school, take occassional vacations, they all get a birthday party, and so on.) they need along with a strong Christian setting, they do nevertheless keep most of the kids on a pretty short "leash" if you will. It's a loving home and they are excellent parents and providers. There are just inherant logistical and momentum issues when you have a family of that size.

Conversely, when Rachel is here with us (when we would 'borrow' a pair of kids for a weekend. It always had to be a pair of them. But Rachel was one of them nine times out of ten.), her 'other' personality comes out: she acts just like any other teenage girl: giggly, smiley, loves romance movies, etc. My wife and I naturally try and pamper her and let her lead a somewhat less restricted life: my wife takes her to the movies (to see PG and PG-13 movies that her mother won't), out to eat at restaurants, home cooked meals, spends the night, takes her to get her nails painted, and so on. Even I have taken her and one of her brothers to the local water slide amusement park. Although my wife and I lead quite the normal, mundane, and stable life (i.e. in bed by 9PM every night), in Rachels eyes, our place is paradise: she doesn't have a dozen other kids running and screaming and fighting for control of the TV, she doesn't have to share a bathroom with five other girls, has her own bedroom, etc. As far as Rachel is concerned, when she is at our house, that is the mental equivalent to a vacation in the Caribbean to us. Everyone who has seen this-with the notable exception of her adopted parents-including Rachel herself-says that Rachel, being a developing woman and wanting to figure out what she wants to be-wants to live the life that my wife and I do. She would "trade places" with my wife in a New York minute if she could.

So. Here's the problem.

With the news that she is moving away soon, her general bitterness and resentfulness towards her adopted parents has, overnight, skyrocketed. Never mind that she's a teenage girl. That in and of itself is going to bring a a cacaphony of issues. But add to that what she's been through in her past and how many times she's been moved around and now has to again, she's being taken away from the one thing she seems to care about in this world-us-and you can see where there is one seriously PO'd little girl. Now, she's stuck in a negative feedback loop. She is always in trouble with her adopted mother for being argumentative and sassy. So she gets grounded and isn't allowed to come over and visit us. But the reason she's so crabby is....because she isn't allowed to see us...and she's being moved away. So round and round it goes escalating. Indeed she has already asked both us and her adopted parents if she can stay with us. Needless to say, her adopted parents shot that request down. It would not surprise me to learn that her mother (remember...my cousin) is intentionally trying to 'wean' Rachel off of us because of the imminent move. That has to be just further fueling resentment.

Looking two-to-five years ahead, I can see Rachel doing one of three things:

1. Finally deciding she's had enough and becomes a runaway. Where would she run to? Yep. Us. She will get on a bus, walk, hitchhike, whatever it takes to get to the one place she feels safe and happy: on our doorstep. How awkward would that be-having to call her parents back up and shipping her right back to what she fled?

2. She says 'the hell with it' and just splits on her own, becoming a 'missing' milk carton kid.

3. She discovers that she's a woman and has a way out: finds the first young man that she can, gets him to get her pregnant, and uses that as an escape. Whether or not the young man will be a decent one or not is of course a whole seperate issue.

So what can we do here? IS there anything we can do? Or do we just have to take a "let the chips fall where they may" approach?

The absolute last thing my wife and I would want to do is create a rift with my cousin and her husband because they might think we are trying to "poach" one of their children. Although my wife and I WOULD love to have her-and are fully equipped to support her and provide a loving home and all of her needs-we don't really want to go down "that" road at all. But conversely, we care about all of these children as though they were our own. And can see-easily as the sun in a cloudless sky-that there are major problems ahead for one of them-who just happens to be our favorite. I don't know that it would be our place to step in and say to her parents (especially in light of us being a childless couple) how to be a parent.

But at the same time, THEY are the ones that are choosing to do this and uproot the family. Remember...they weighed in heavily on my wife and I's decision on where to settle down ourselves. And now we're stuck. Had I known this was coming, we would've settled down somewhere else instead.

What do we do?
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:01 AM
2,605 posts, read 3,937,595 times
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Just how old is this child? Any kid, especially young teen values privacy and personal attention at home. As overwhelming as it is at her house, she IS a part of that family.

You're in a tough spot. Playing favorites with a family of 12 kids involved can lead to a lot of resentment with the other kids, but I can see where this girl needs your love and time by herself.

Maybe talk with your cousin before they leave and suggest that the girl spends the summer with you or visits for the holidays.

Honestly, there's not a lot you can do to actually keep the girl. When she gets to be 16 or 17, depending on which state you live in, she can legally leave home and come to live with you.

Right now, it's best to allow her to call when she wants, write letters and visit as much as possible.

Good luck.

I understand the family thing. My ex's mother and her two sisters married three brothers. Their kids (12, total) are as close to siblings as you can genetically get without actually being.
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:03 AM
43,012 posts, read 88,978,939 times
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You didn't provide her actual age. That's relevant. How many years are left before she becomes an adult?

I have taken teenagers into my house, but only after they turned 18 and could make the decison for themselves. For the most part, parents dont' want to send their children away, even if it's in the best interest of the child. Since you are family, your cousin might be willing to let her live with you. But it's a long shot. You could cause a rift between you and your cousin. Simply asking could cause a rift.

When I have had teenagers who were minors wanting to live with me, I encouraged them to work things out with their parents. Honestly, that's probably the best you can do. Often, short-leash parents don't realize the short leash is the problem. And the last thing they want to give up is their short leash.

If I were in your situation, I would provide as much emotional support and mentoring as possible to the girl. I would encourage her to work things out with her parents. I wouldn't broach the subject with the cousin. By avoiding a rift with your cousin, you can keep open the possibility of the girl visiting you in the summers and possibly flying out for long weekends during the school year. Staying an active part of her life ensures that you will remain a positive influence and that she will view you as a mentor she will come to when in crisis.

Don't say a word to the girl about wishing you could take her. That will cause her more conflict about her life. She needs to learn how to live the life she's in right now because she's stuck there until she turns 18.
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:09 AM
43,012 posts, read 88,978,939 times
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Originally Posted by NoExcuses View Post
Honestly, there's not a lot you can do to actually keep the girl. When she gets to be 16 or 17, depending on which state you live in, she can legally leave home and come to live with you.
You're right about the OP checking state laws. In my state, it's 18.

OP, if the girl is moving to a different state from where you live, make sure to check the state laws where she lives, not where you live.
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:10 AM
Location: Business ethics is an oxymoron.
1,671 posts, read 2,079,587 times
Reputation: 3266
She is 14. We live in California. They are moving to another part of the state.
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:11 AM
43,012 posts, read 88,978,939 times
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Originally Posted by Des-Lab View Post
A few weeks ago, we get the news that it's official: my cousin and her family are moving away. For job purposes (a dubious claim IMO, but that's another story).
I just noticed that. What's the story? It might be very relevant. They might be moving because they don't like how close you and your wife are with their daguther.
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:22 AM
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla
1,889 posts, read 6,987,029 times
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Her adoptive parents most likely have no idea you're thinking about this and they likely have no intention of giving her up. The best advice for them would be to work on their relationship with their daughter.

Her relationship with them is not unusual of children who come of abusive or emotional hurtful backgrounds. It's really difficult to understand the role of a parent when all you know is that a parent can hurt and abuse you. Discipline can be reminicient of abuse which causes tension in the relationship. So, as you've noticed, she seems to be more 'herself' when she is with you and your spouse because, luckily for you, you don't have the role of disciplinarian. That would probably change if she lived with you on a regular basis.

Let them work on their relationship but I wouldn't pursue the idea of taking her in to live with you.
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:26 AM
2,605 posts, read 3,937,595 times
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The state of California has adopted the Interstate Compact on Juveniles which is based on the Becca Bill.

This means that anyone under the age of 18 who is believed to have run away from home or is considered a 'juvenile delinquent' can be detained and returned to the custody of a parent, guardian or the court. Read more from California law on runaways below...
USA Road Travel: California Runaway Laws - Laws in California -digihitch.com (http://www.digihitch.com/usa499.html - broken link)

Maybe this will help.

Unless the parents are understanding of the situation, there's not much you can do.
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:43 AM
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,556,197 times
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As long as all parties agree to a new arrangement, and you are related family, I doubt if any legal complications would ever arise that would influence whatever you chose to do. People take in nieces and nephews and younger siblings and grandchildren all the time.

I'm assuming the girl has been legally and formally adopted, so there are no impediments based on her own status.

There ought to be a serious discussion involving the interested parties, and if everyone agrees, I can't see any downside to the girl coming to live with you. Such a decision can be easily reversed if it doesn't work out as well as hoped for.

The girl sounds eminently lovable. As a matter of pure practicality, it would be a great 4-year test for you and your wife to see if you like being parents, and after that, you can decide if you want to continue to be an adoptive family.

By the way, just as an aside, there is no "Eastern Europe" anymore. It is now Central Europe, and the girl has never lived in the political tyranny or economic disorder that our minds associate with Eastern Europe.

Last edited by jtur88; 08-21-2010 at 09:57 AM..
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Old 08-21-2010, 09:52 AM
Location: Sacramento
2,568 posts, read 5,839,397 times
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Honestly it sounds to me like you are making your home the fun place to be so she loves you more. Kind of like non-custodial parents usually do. By doing this you are causing problems for her at home. I recommend you talk to her positively about her move and tell her how is she is good at home she'll be able to visit you more often.
Sound to me like you and your wife want to have a family. You can adopt too or became a foster parent.
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