Should We Fight for Custody of Our Nephew?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My Army husband has family members who drink, smoke cigarettes and smoke marijuana.

Our nephew -- I'll call him Jack (my sister-in-law's son) -- is witnessing all of this, and it is affecting him in school. I believe he is being neglected.

My sister-in-law doesn't work. Instead, she is on welfare and hangs out all day with her shiftless, no-account boyfriend.

Instead of her taking her food stamps and the money she receives from the state and spending it on Jack, they sell the food stamps and buy marijuana!

My parents-in-law witness what is going on but don't try to intervene. Yes, they will keep Jack on weekends, but they will use my sister-in-law's EBT (food stamp card) and give her the money for the purchase when they know she is a pothead.

Jack visits us in the summer. We are able to give him his own room, nutritious meals, healthy play activities, and keep up his hygiene. We take him to church with our three children so he can have a good spiritual upbringing.

We visited my husband's family last month, and Jack has started acting out (screaming tantrums and throwing things) when he doesn't get his way. Instead of the adults teaching him good behavior, they will give him candy and cookies to make him be quiet.

We are afraid they are ruining Jack and he won't be able to have a good future unless we try to get custody of him.

I think Jack needs special services too because he is barely reading though he will be in the third grade soon. If we take custody of him, he would be able to get the services he needs and be in a great environment.

Most important, he will be able to have a great role model (my husband) and he will be raised in a Christian environment.

My mother said what is going on with my in-laws is none of my business, but I say there's nothing wrong with trying to make sure we spread our good values. What do you think?

-- Just Showing That I Care

Dear Care,

OK, first of all, let me say that I appreciate you. Trust me, a "but" is not coming next. You sound like a very caring wife and mother.

Moreover, you look around and outside of your own home and find others who may be in need, and you try to help them.

Now in this situation, I think trying to get custody of your nephew is the wrong step to take. It could even be detrimental to your own family.

As you reported, you are an Army wife with three children. When you add deployments, training exercises and PCS moves, this probably makes you a very busy, stressed-out woman.

I didn't even mention that you may want to have a life, set goals and have dreams of your own.

Considering all of this, why should you pick up an extra responsibility? I have to say I think you are moving out of your lane.

OK, your sister-in-law has a deadbeat boyfriend and they sit around sucking up good oxygen by getting high on weed and selling her welfare payments.

I have to be honest: It's none of your business. It's her life. Your sister-in-law doesn't have high aspirations and she is not giving your nephew the life you wished he had. However, I'm not hearing you say he's a victim of child abuse, right?

I can't say there is abuse in this situation. Maybe some people who are stuck in a rut, but not abuse to your nephew.

If you witness or have any concerns about abuse, you have a duty to make an anonymous report. Child Protective Services would make the decision to follow up on your report.

There are ways to help your nephew. Stay active in his life and be an available resource by talking to him on the phone often. Continue to allow him to visit you in the summer.

You didn't mention his father, but try to include him in Jack's life, unless there is a reason that he should not be contacted (e.g., domestic violence between your sister-in-law and Jack's father).

Lastly, I think you have your hands full. Your extra time should be spending on "self-care" -- you.

-- Ms. Vicki


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