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'AITA for telling my wife we can adopt her nephews but not her teen niece?' UPDATED 3X

'AITA for telling my wife we can adopt her nephews but not her teen niece?' UPDATED 3X


Taking in a troubled child is a huge undertaking even for experienced parents and caretakers, which means it's a huge task for first-time parents.

In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a man asked if he was wrong for telling his wife they can't take in her teen niece. He wrote:

"AITA for telling my wife we can adopt her nephews but not her niece?"

My wife’s sister was recently found guilty of dealing to support her habit. She will be sentenced this week and is looking toward a long term because this is not her first time caught dealing. She has three children, two boys (4 and 5) and a girl (14). No one on her family’s side wants to or are in a position to take the children except for me and my wife.

However, I’m demanding two conditions. If we’re going to take the children in, I want us to adopt them. I don’t want 50 people looking over our shoulders trying to tell us what to do. If we’re going to be legal responsible for them, I want to be able to parent them as we see fit. The second condition is that I’m willing to take the two boys but not the girl.

The two boys have not had any rules in their lives and are terrors but they’re still young and can be taught right from wrong. The girl has gone past the point of no return. She’s been suspended from school several times for things like fighting and smoking ill*gal substances on school grounds. She once dated a 22 year old with her mom’s approval and they all lived in the same apartment.

That didn’t last long and now she’s dating an 18-year-old who is a g@ng member. He was arrested when he was 14 on a home invasion charge but was released because it was his first time arrested and his age. This is a mess and we’ve been arguing about it for an entire week.

I don’t want to risk our financial and personal security but my wife argued that we can’t just throw her away. At this point we’re not even sleeping in the same bed but I’m not willing to open our house up to the girl and her lifestyle.

The internet did not hold back.

Melificent40 wrote:

If you were researching and offering other options to get the 14 y/o the intensity of help she will need, I would go N T A. However, to separate siblings (without one of them going to a specific setting to deal with their issues and arranging communication) and reject a child that age as a lost cause is a problem.

I'm also concerned from your tone that you're underestimating the work and support that will be needed to develop new patterns for the younger children and possibly catch up their education, and I can't tell if that's hubris or an honest misunderstanding of a new situation.

Asleep-Tank3228 wrote:

YTA she’s 14 not 40 I agree it’s tough but she is still a child. It will be tough with the boys too no matter what their ages. You’re signing up for tough. The question is are you willing to break your marriage up for it cause that’s what you’re gonna do. Period.

idowithkozlowski wrote:

YTA- you want to split siblings up because YOU think she’s past the point of “no return”? Ever think that she’s acting out because she’s needing guidance & help from an adult who actually cares about her & her well-being?

Do better.

when_in_doubt_doubt wrote:

I can sympathize, but YTA. There are other options than throwing her in foster care. How is that supposed to help?? Therapy, rehab, something other than telling her that she is garbage by not adopting her as well. Even adoption centers/shelters for pets don't like separating siblings, so why are you so inhumane to separate your nieces and nephews.

Beautiful_Report58 wrote:

NAH You are not equipped to handle any of them actually. I can understand why you think you might be able to turn the boys around, but this will be far more intense than you might imagine. Let the professionals guide you through the process and listen to their advice and your gut.

Hachiko75 wrote:

That's tough. My parents went through the same thing with their granddaughter, my niece. She got banned from Kroger for shoplifting when she and some girls went off school grounds during lunch. Bought drugs into their house.

Though it pales in comparison to what this girl is doing. NTA for not wanting to take her in. That's a big safety risk, but I don't think I can say what you should do. I don't think I could do it, though.

OP shared an update a day later.

I left out a lot of info because I was in shock and still am. We’re both in our late 20s, have been married for a little over a 2 years, have no kids, and I just graduated with my advanced degree last year. Last month we were talking about maybe having kids when we’re in our mid 30s and about where we want to go on our Christmas vacation.

Last week my wife came home, sat me down, and told me we’re taking in three kids. I know nothing about adoption laws, CPS, or anything related to raising children much less troubled children. I knew what was going on with her sister and was told my wife’s parents were going to take the kids in. Apparently they decided they are too old to take care of three kids.

Of everyone in her family, we are the most financially secure and have a house so when everyone backed out, she volunteered without asking me. That was the crux of our argument until I realized that it was happening with or without my agreement. That’s when I told her we can take the boys but not the girl which started another round of arguments.

I’ve never raised any kids so l know I can’t deal with the baggage that the girl will bring into our lives. I can’t begin to tell you all how shocking the whole thing is. Sometimes I feel like I’m outside watching my life spin out of control. I want to thank you all for your insights and especially the people working in CPS and/or the legal system. Your advice is extremely helpful.

People had a lot to say in response to the update.

butt_butt_butt_butt_ wrote:

As a social worker for CPS…Cautious NAH. But you need to tread carefully, because your “demands” may not line up with reality.

4 & 5 year olds raised in a chaotic and traumatizing environment will absolutely have some behavioral problems, which you are relating to “running wild.” That may not be as easy to fix. They will need extensive therapy. Whether you adopt them or not will not be up to you. You can ask it. But you won’t be able to demand it nor expect it. It will be the choice of a judge.

Based on how much or little the parents comply with CPS requirements, how long the prison term is etc. I would expect that you will be fostering the kids for a minimum of 12 months before you are allowed to start adoption procedures (depending on where you live). And yes…the courts and social workers will be up your a*s during that time. And 6 months after the adoption takes place.

You need to think about that as a reality before commuting to these kids. Signing adoption papers as soon as they come to your home will NOT be an option, unless both parents agree, clear it with a judge, lawyers, psych evils…Etc. It just won’t happen that way. Where I disagree with most redditors though is about taking in the 14 year old being inappropriate.

If you do not feel you can care for her, you shouldn’t. But that shouldn’t stop you from being a resources for the 2 kids that you are capable of protecting.

I’ve been a long term foster parent for children of friends and family. And I’ve done short term foster care for kids in my office. Anywhere from newborn to 17. A 14-year-old with gang affiliation, substance use, major trauma and behavioral concerns is NOT something most people with good intentions are equipped for. You can’t just “love and therapy” all of those issues away.

This kid sounds like she needs a higher level of care than you are equipped for. So you aren’t wrong for recognizing that you can’t give her what she needs. She needs an experienced parent with trauma informed skills, and a ton of one-on-one attention. You aren’t an AH for having this boundary, and understanding your limitations. And any social worker would tell you that.

But do be prepared that taking the boys will not be as easy as you imagine. And you will NOT be able to demand adoption. If you take them, it will be a trial run. Heavily supervised. And MAYBE adoption happens later. Reconsider your plans based on that knowledge, and decide if you are still willing. And…call your social worker! You may not be interested at all once you see what the plan will look like.

Unusual-Sympathy-205 wrote:

And, let’s be real about the 4 & 5 year olds…they’re not blank slates. They’re going to need a lot of support, therapy, love, consistency, etc…a lot. My parents both worked with children professionally.

They adopted my brother in similar circumstances (family member, dr*g abuse, severe neglect) when he was three. There was a lot of damage already done by then. They did their best for him, by the standards of the day. Now we’d know he needed, and have access to, much more, better, intensive therapy. Bro is in his late 40s; he still struggles because of things that happened to him when he was two.

Stormy8888 wrote:

You can’t just “love and therapy” all of those issues away.

Finally someone with experience says the hard truth that many other well meaning but completely clueless naive posters seem to be glossing over. They should not take the 15 year old girl, this one needs a LOT more care and support than OP and his wife are able to provide. Even the nephews are a question mark at present.

Taking in all three children will just lead to divorce once the issues manifest, and the issues WILL manifest for sure. The other posters are asking OP to take on a big problem child. Very easy to pass the problem on to others to deal with, when chances are most of them would NOT be able to or want to take the 15 year old niece in themselves.

Keyboard_Detective_ wrote:

It's very easy for people not in this situation to tell you you're an AH for not taking this child in. If I hadn't been in this situation, I might be one of them, who knows? But let me tell you a little story.

My sister was a dr*g addict, she ended up locked up/rehab, multiple times. She was uninterested in being a parent. My parents raised my niece as their own, but she also had her issues. She was out of control, threatened and tried to kill my mother in multiple occasions. You see, kids like this often target the one trying to help them the most.

Therapy? Yes, she needed therapy. Until the therapist would tell her something she didn't want to hear- didn't agree that she was a victim and everyone else was awful- then she would refuse to go. On and on this went for years. My parents were too old to do this, so it was either she go into the foster care system, or I take her. She and I were always very close, I was her shoulder to cry on, even when she was wrong.

She came to live with me, and guess what- the exact same patterns began. I can't tell you how many times the police were called while I was dodging behind furniture as my niece acted as if she were possessed by the devil himself. At 17, she went to live with her boyfriend and his parents. CPS was involved then as well, and as long as they took responsibility for her, they were ok with it.

Guess what happened! The same exact thing. She ended up kicked out of their house, and she went to live with a friend. On and on this will go. This is your future. My niece ended up moving in with some guy in another state. This also "didn't work out" of no fault of her own of course. My older sister is now sober for 1 year, so my niece is now living with her.

She is almost 20 now, has no concept of responsibility or accountability, and while she has been through a lot in her life- she uses this as a crutch to ab*se every person in her life that has tried to help her. She was given a stable home at much younger and age than your 14-year-old niece, so I can only imagine it will be that much worse for you.

You will have your hands full with the boys as it is, given what they've been through as well. And before anyone starts with the splitting the siblings up, my sister also had a second daughter that was raised by her paternal grandparents- she also had issues but is shaping up to be a really great adult.

She distances herself from her older sister and is thankful that she wasn't raised closer to her. While my younger niece is a success story, my older one has many more similar attributes that your niece exhibits.

And all of this was without a g*ng member boyfriend. I imagine if she did have one, myself or my mother would be dead by now. My younger brother was just contacted by CPS to take custody of his daughter, who's mother is ALSO addicted to dr*gs, we'll see what happens with that, but if it comes down to me being asked to take her, I would say no. I have a young son now who i will protect at all costs.

While she undoubtedly needs help, and could absolutely flourish given the right circumstances, there will be emotional baggage. The selfish parents that do as they please, and face no consequences for what they do to their children are to blame. Everyone wants to beat up on this man that is willing to pick up a majority of his sister-in-laws' f#$k up. There is a limit.

Two months later, OP shared another update.

It’s been awhile and I decided to update since I saw some people are still reading my post and asking about my situation. I ended up leaving the house and talking to an attorney. Originally I just wanted to insulate myself and my assets from any damages that might be caused.

However, after talking to her about our state laws and talking to my family, I moved out and filed for divorce. I still love my ex and knew she will be financially strap taking care of three kids so I signed the house over to her so at least she’ll always have a roof over her head. I don’t know the exact details but the following is what I heard through friends.

My ex got temporary guardianship of the kids.

She moved the kids in and registered them at the local schools. The niece was suspended several times.

My ex and her niece got into some heated argument about her skipping school and letting boys into the house while the ex was at work.

The niece and her friends cleaned the house of all valuables one day while my ex was at work and they left. No one knows where she’s at.

Her family thinks I’m the devil and things would have gone much smoother if I stayed and helped her. Apparently her father and male cousins will rip my head off if we ever run into each other.

That’s one of the main reason why I ultimately left. With three kids in the house, I figured my chance of having our children went down to zero. I know it’ll sound selfish but I want my own children.

The internet had a lot to say in response to the update.

chi_lawyer wrote:

Like, I understand OP's position. He was not prepared to suddenly be the parent to three kids, much less ones who are VERY troubled. You're not required to set yourself on fire to keep people warm.

And where the f#$k were this concerned father and brothers and relatives BEFORE the sister went to j*il, her teen daughter dated ad*lt gang members, etc? This outcome was predictable, and yeah sometimes there are just things you can't handle, and you're not a bad person if you avoid them.

Similar-Shame7517 wrote:

I feel like many of the people responding have never been in the circumstance of adopting children. My aunt adopted two children from similar circumstances as an infant male and 4 yr old girl.

My aunt and her husband are very well off, he’s a doctor and she is also in the medical field. The children had every advantage growing up. They went on luxury vacations all over the world, had tutors and special schooling to account for the time that they missed in prior care and my aunt/uncle were active in their extracurricular activities including coaching their sports teams.

Despite the efforts, therapy and an engaged family life - the children were unable to overcome their prior upbringing. They both fell into dr*gs, the female into pr*stitution. My relatives paid for numerous stints in rehab and are very much still funding their lives well into their 20s/30s. It ruined my aunt and uncles marriage as I have seen other posters allude to and put them in many dangerous circumstances.

This is a significant undertaking, and one that is being severely downplayed.

The perceived right thing to do is to take all 3 children, but that will not provide the full time support that is needed to overcome the potential challenges resulting from the early developmental circumstances.

This is an extremely difficult situation that will require full time parental care and oversight. I think the way you wrote your initial response is aligning with the YTA commentary, but I can personally understand why you were so conflicted and appreciate the care you took care in understanding the lifelong commitment of making the children legally yours. I wish you the best of luck!

Hedgiest_hog wrote:

"Where the f**k were this concerned father and brother and relatives BEFORE..."

Wanting the problem to go away. It's far easier to be angry than compassionate, and it's far easier to blame than to support.

So rather than helping when things started to spiral, they stood silent. And rather than helping when things got worse, they stayed silent sure that OP's wife would fix it. And rather than helping now, they're furious with the one person with no social obligation to help these kids. I pity these boys, they've had a terrible run and it sounds like no male relatives are worth s**t.

knittedjedi wrote:

"I still love my ex and knew she will be financially strapped taking care of three kids so I signed the house over to her so at least she’ll always have a roof over her head."

I can't imagine being so financially well off that I could just fully sign over the marital house like that.

JadieJang wrote:

That father and those male cousins won't have a leg to stand on: those kids are THEIR blood and THEY didn't take them in.

Euphoric-Practice-83 wrote:

What's more shocking to me is his ex made the decision to take all of the children in and wouldn't compromise with her husband. Like, girl, you were a part of a team. It's no longer you thinking "I can do this" rather it's "can we do this." When you are married, you are a team. It's a partnership. Not a command ship.

Hopefully she is able to give those two boys the love they deserve. I believe the girl might be too far gone, but at least his ex tried. Shame on those grandparents though. Like, seriously, they should've stepped up for at least her. Or any of the kids.

daymanlol wrote:

It really is wild to see how powerful and destructive serious addiction is, not only that but the reach its impacts have. Its impact and magnitude so great that it can take down the marriage of people merely in its radius. What’s she expected to do, turn away her sisters children and throw them into the foster system having to live with the guilt of turning her back on the most vulnerable victims of this situation?

Can he be expected to commit to the chaos this will bring into their shared (and relatively new) life along with the not unlikely sacrificing of having his own children? F**king sad man, just sucks all around.

polywrathory wrote:

It is legitimately frightening how many people here read this post and concluded "good, the ex-wife got what she deserved." Dude was pragmatic and got away from a difficult life he didn't want to live, but she decided to be there for her family no matter what. And that's...contemptible?

I hope dude finds happiness in another relationship that's less trouble he's not obliged to deal with, and the lady manages to bring her nephews up in a loving home.

This is truly a NAH situation, and hard for everyone involved.

Sources: Reddit
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