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Should He Seek Custody of Nephews From Drugged-Out Parents?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I'm currently an active-duty member of the Air Force. Like you, I'm also from Dallas, but I'm stationed in central California for the time being.

I am reaching out to you for advice on whether I should pursue parental custody of my nephews, who are ages 6 and 5.

My brother and the mother of his kids have been together for about seven years. They met in high school and are now 23. Because they had children so young, it's been a roller coaster of ups and downs in their relationship.

The mother works at a strip club as a dancer and has been doing that for a few years. I am not a judgmental person, but this past year it has been noted that she has an alcohol and drug addiction problem. She looks emaciated. We have tried to help her, but she refuses to leave that job even though she is no longer making enough money to sustain her family.

My brother, on the other hand, has struggled with employment stability and jumps from job to job. They have fallen behind on paying their bills and taken out loans, but somehow they are still struggling financially. They have been offered government assistance but refused to take it.

My oldest nephew recently started school but was pulled out on the second day because his parents failed to buy him uniforms. During the second week of classes, his mom refused to take him to school because she was too tired, so my brother took a day off from work to be able to take him.

A few months ago, she told my brother that she wanted him out of the apartment they lived in because she wants to be single. My brother took this hard and, since then, they have been fighting to the point where domestic violence in now an issue.

Yesterday, they had a verbal fight that led to physical attacks because she didn't come home when she got off work and instead left with her co-workers and clients, which my brother confronted her about. She threw a lamp at him, and my brother threw it back. It ended up cutting her head. He went to jail, and she pressed charges against him so he's not allowed near her or his kids for 60 days.

He is well aware that she is an incompetent parent and is worried that she won't feed the kids or take the oldest to school. I advised him to call Child Protective Services to make sure his kids are OK.

My brother says that he is the one who makes sure the kids eat and looks after them. She sleeps all day and is either drunk or high on something that impedes her from prioritizing her responsibilities as a parent.

My brother loves this woman regardless of what damage they do to each other. He is determined to do what it takes to keep his family together.

I want to give him a chance to see if he is able to get on his feet and take his kids from her legally before I get involved. He told me that since he doesn't have a place to live right now and the mother will be moving in with a client of hers, he will grant me custody of his kids and we will take her to court.

I really don't know what to do as I don't have children myself, but I refuse to let my nephews suffer from neglect because their mom is unable to provide for them or fulfill her responsibilities as a mother. Can you give me some advice?

-- Family Situation

Dear Family,

It's good to hear from you. I'm sorry to hear about what's going on with your family. It must be very stressful living so far away and knowing so much is happening with your brother and his family.

I have to be honest and say my professional experience tells me that your brother is more than likely using too. I've found that drugs and alcohol can bind a couple together more than true love will. That's probably why their relationship is so chaotic.

You have her pegged correctly: She's a cracked-out, emaciated stripper, which tells me that she's working for some hole-in-the-wall club where they throw coins instead of dollar bills. She makes enough to feed her habit only. Now the bottom is falling out because they can't keep food, a place to stay or enough drugs, so they're fighting all the time.

I agree with you: Your main concern should be your nephews. I can't imagine the anxiety they are experiencing. My first suggestion would be for a stable person to take the children. Do you have any other family members or does she have any family who can help?

I'm not saying you shouldn't take them, but the quickest way would be for both parents to give you temporary custody of the kids. In this case, I would try, try, try to talk to her about this option.

Once you get possession of the children, it will be easy for the court to give you custody because of their instability. If the parents refuse to give you temporary custody, the only option you have is to stay in close contact with them. It's only a matter of time before something happens and the children are removed from their care. You will want to be at the initial court hearing as a family member who would like to have custody of the children.

In the meantime, feel free to contact Child Protective Services on your own to see if you can make a report. They will definitely let you know if something can be done right now to remove the children. I hope it doesn't take something happening to your nephews for CPS to do something.

Please keep in touch with me. I will be praying for you and your family.

-- Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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