Still My Brother's Keeper
January 21, 2011 11:59 AM   Subscribe

In less than 5 hours, my teenage brother is coming to live with me. Possibly for the long haul. Neither of us are cool with this. Please help me sort out this ridiculous family situation

I asked this question last year. The situation has escalated. Last night, my stepmother (with whom he has lived for the past few years) told me she can't stand to take care of my brother right now and that she's dropping him off at my place for the weekend, possibly longer.

My stepmother is very controlling, almost to the point of emotional abuse (I forgot to mention this detail in my previous question). She and my brother have been butting heads for a while. He's headstrong, insolent, doing poorly in school, and has a bad habit of lying (I've caught him in several very serious lies); she's a control freak and puts him on restriction for weeks for small infractions like forgetting to take the trash out, not making his bed, or leaving dishes in the sink. When I say punishment, I mean full-out restriction. He's not allowed to talk to go anywhere or talk to anyone, not even me or our father, for weeks at a time.

My brother is miserable.

Where are my parents in this equation?

My biological father is still stationed overseas (he works with the military, so simply "coming home", as many commenters suggested that he do, is not an option).

My biological mother has remarried and moved 1,000+ miles away. She is reluctant to have my brother live with her, even though she has the space.

So the burden lies on me, the only sane member of his immediate family. The only problem is, we do not get along. I love him and I like hanging out with him. I take him out to lunch/dinner every so often, but living together is a bad idea. We've discussed it several times and we both feel the same way. We spent 5 days together visiting our mother over the holidays and we were at each other's throats halfway into vacation.

I do not have the time or energy to take care of an immature 16 year old boy. I work full time, I'm in grad school and I'm in the process of starting a small business. Plus, I'm dating someone right now. I've worked hard to make a happy life for myself and separate myself from my family's craziness and I'm not keen on getting back into it.

At the same time, he's in an emotionally unstable, unhappy living environment and I hate that. I want him to have a good life. But I can't promise that living with me will be any better.

Is there a way for the relationship between my brother and stepmother to be resolved? Aside from her weird, controlling behavior, she is actually a good caretaker. She helped him bring his grades up and she helps keep him accountable. I, on the other hand, am rarely home and would not consider myself a nurturing person. I don't have time or energy to keep up with him and tell him to do chores or do his homework.

If he were more responsible, I could see him living by himself for a while, but that's not an option, because he's really smart, but he has the maturity of a 12-13 year old.

I'm incredibly angry at my brother and my stepmother right now. I've heard both of their sides of the stories and both of them are to blame for this situation. If my stepmother weren't so ridiculously controlling, my brother wouldn't feel the need to act out or push back against her. At the same time, if my brother were more responsible and focused on his school work instead of trying to keep up with his friends, my stepmother wouldn't have the need to harass him so much.

I feel like I'm the only adult in this situation and it sucks. Help?
posted by calcetina to Human Relations (73 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
He's not allowed to talk to go anywhere or talk to anyone, not even me or our father, for weeks at a time.
That is something beyond emotional abuse. I think it's time to get some child welfare agency involved. They may have some alternative options for housing him in the short or long term. As much as you can be there for him as a sister, you are probably not equipped to parent a troubled kid like him. As bad as a foster home could be, if you keep in contact with him and act as his advocate within the system it may be better than him living with your stepmother or you.
posted by soelo at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

I had to live with my sister for a few years (15-18) when I was that age. First, let's get any illusions out of the way: Teenagers are almost always difficult. It's just what they are.

That said, you two will likely find a reasonable balance within a few weeks so that even if you're not terribly happy about the situation, it will be tolerable.

Obviously the nagging isn't working to get him into the proper frame of mind to be responsible, so try giving him some responsibility. Tell him that he can hang out with his friends all he wants as long as he's getting his schoolwork done.

Alternatively, just say no. Tell your stepmom that he can stay with you for the weekend because they both obviously need a break from each other, but that he cannot stay longer than that. If she asks why, say "I'm sorry, that's simply not possible." She doesn't need to know your reasoning, she just needs to know that her plan is not acceptable to you.

Also, it helps to realize that we're not all going to have the same sort of life. Some of us slacked off in school and still managed to find a decent, if unconventional, job. ;)
posted by wierdo at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why are you angry at your brother, the victim in this situation? He is a sixteen year old boy and he is being abused and isolated. I wouldn't expect an adult to act reasonably under these circumstances, much less a teenager.

Why aren't you angry at--and taking up the issue with--your mother, his parent, who has the ability and the space to care for him, but just doesn't feel like it? She's the one who should be bearing the brunt of your anger.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:09 PM on January 21, 2011 [103 favorites]

Well, your brother can't be blamed too much for not being an adult in this situation, because he's *not*. Although he could probably stand to be more mature, yes.

Maybe your father can't move back, but I think he needs to bite the bullet and have his son live with him, even if he doesn't figure it's ideal for schooling. Maybe a non-American school will turn out to be even better for him.

Seriously, if your step-mother is abandoning him, his biological mother or father need to step up and take the burden. I think a living-with-a-sibling situation isn't necessarily going to be a failure in and of itself, but it sounds like a) your personalities aren't going to make it easy for it to work, and b) you're (rightfully!) resentful about it from the start, which just isn't going to make it go well at all.
posted by Stormfeather at 12:09 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry you're in the middle of all this.

My biological mother has remarried and moved 1,000+ miles away. She is reluctant to have my brother live with her, even though she has the space.

This is so much more her responsibility than it is yours. It sounds so much more feasible for him to live with his mother than with you.
posted by lizzicide at 12:09 PM on January 21, 2011 [17 favorites]

All that being said: it might not be feasible or in your brother's (again, a child) best interests to continue resisting this. In this case, I think you should seek out as much support you can, be it from the state or his school or even friends you know who are parents and step up to the plate. Yes, it's unfair. Yes, it sucks. But when there's a child involved, sometimes you have to swallow your lumps. Consider putting the new business on the backburner for awhile and taking care of this kid, because, Christ, it sounds like he needs it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:12 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nthing the fact that it is your mother's responsibility to help out with your brother. She is getting off easy at your expense.
posted by lannanh at 12:14 PM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Child protective services. Boys Town (800-448-3000.) Heck, an assistant vice principal at his school. This is a classic kind of abuse/neglect/dependency situation, and at this point, at least three adults are complicit in the abandonment. Ask him, when he shows up, if he's willing to try and get outside help.
posted by SMPA at 12:19 PM on January 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

In my circle, it is not completely uncommon for a teenager to live with another family for awhile when things get untenable at home. Is there an acceptable friend whose family could take him in for awhile (possibly with some economic support from his parents)? Perhaps you could strategize about this with him when he is with you on the weekend.

I think counselling or other mediation to help him live with step-mom might also be in order if that's his preferred location. She probably needs help setting reasonable repercussions for infractions.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 12:23 PM on January 21, 2011

Put your brother in the car, yell 'road trip!' Drive 1,000 miles, stopping for burgers along the way. Leave him with his mother. Wave goodbye.
posted by fixedgear at 12:25 PM on January 21, 2011 [29 favorites]

I came in to say what SMPA and others have said. His parents refuse or are unable to take care of him, so the state, the school, other child welfare institutions can and should help. I want to add that you need to call the nearest military institution and talk to the Morale Welfare and Recreation Command Office, which is responsible for coordinating services for dependents.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:35 PM on January 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't want to be your brother. He probably believes no one wants him. It sounds like he's right. I can't imagine a way for him to become a loving, trusting, focused person in these circumstances.
posted by amtho at 12:37 PM on January 21, 2011 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Can you come up with some way he could *help* you, actually make your life better? Maybe he could take a month-long cooking course and then take care of making delicious meals for you -- in exchange for rent, or something. 16 is old enough, don't you think? And being able to contribute and actually sustain and delight his older brother with good food would be so wonderful for him... This is just an idea, but my heart goes out to him and my problem-solving brain doesn't want to give up.

Welfare? Boys' town? I grant you, I've never had to take care of a troubled teen, and so I don't fault you, but he's got to be sensitive enough to know that "road trip" toward his Mom's home state = dumping him from one hostile situation to another uncaring situation. Whatever you end up doing, if you can, try to make sure he feels loved and useful.
posted by amtho at 12:41 PM on January 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I probably won't take your advice literally, fixedgear (for one, I'm very picky about my burgers ^_^), but that made me laugh a lot harder than I should have. A bit of humor is greatly appreciated right now.

Also, I definitely sympathize with my brother in this situation. I'm not so much angry with him as frustrated. Don't get me wrong, I understand he's a victim here and I feel horrible for him. At the same time, he does really stupid things (skipping school, lying to teachers, failing classes, ignoring/disobeying house rules) that are not helping the situation and are, in my stepmother's mind at least, making her actions seem somewhat legitimate.

She's got issues, don't get me wrong, but it's a lot easier for her to say to friends and community members "Oh, I'm only instilling all of these restrictions because [my brother] is acting out!", and they're more likely to believe her, if he actually is acting out.

I was in a similar but much less severe situation with my biological mother when I was growing up. She was somewhat emotionally and occasionally physically abusive to me. I quickly learned to keep my nose clean and stay out of trouble, lest I draw any of her anger toward me. So if you sense any anger or resentment towards my brother, it's probably stemming from that. He tries to argue and talk back to my stepmother when she's angry, instead of just shutting up and letting her rant. Sometimes, you have to just nod and smile and let the other person think they won.
posted by calcetina at 12:43 PM on January 21, 2011

Aside from her weird, controlling behavior, she is actually a good caretaker.

That runs directly contradictory to everything else you wrote. Your stepmother has been severely abusing your brother, and has now chosen to completely abandon him. That's like saying "Apart from the whole Genocide thing, Hitler was a pretty nice guy." How the heck is that good parenting?

he has the maturity of a 12-13 year old

Who are you to make that call? I'm having a tough time envisioning what a "16 year old acting like a 13 year old" even looks like, because the two ages are so similar. And, hell, even if this is the case, your stepmother is almost certainly to blame -- not your brother.

Your father may be overseas, but have you even talked to him about this?

Unlike what some others here have mentioned, I do not think that it's a good idea to ever send your brother back into your stepmother's care. I like fixedgear's idea the best.
posted by schmod at 12:45 PM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yeah, your brother being a handful or not, I wouldn't expect him to get along with someone as abusive as your stepmother. Banning contact with his friends or treats is one thing- family is just cruel. I wouldn't expect him to get along with your stepmother without violating his human dignity if that's how she's acting.
posted by Phalene at 12:45 PM on January 21, 2011

She was somewhat emotionally and occasionally physically abusive to me. I quickly learned to keep my nose clean and stay out of trouble, lest I draw any of her anger toward me. So if you sense any anger or resentment towards my brother, it's probably stemming from that.

Different people react to abuse in different ways. Keep in mind that, on top of verbal abuse and isolation, he's dealing with a trio of adults that want nothing to do with him.

Honestly, the more I hear about his options for living situations, the more I feel convinced that you need to just take him in, since it sounds like the only other safe, viable options for him might be some sort of foster care situation. DarlingBri said this in the last thread, and I think it bears repeating: "I understand you are not legally responsible, but I find the idea that grown adults are morally and familialy responsible for their younger siblings to be far less objectionable that the upthread suggestion that this teenager be put in foster care so that everyone can absolve themselves of responsibility for him.

In terms of what is fair and what is unfair, I'm not interested. Most of life is unfair, but adults step up the plate and do what has to be done. Is it fair that adults care for their aging parents because they failed to earn or save adquately for old age? No. But you do what needs to be done, unpaletable though it may be."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:47 PM on January 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

At the very least, please do consider that when he gets there in a few hours, he might just need a place to hang out and not have a grown-up worrying about unloading him on someone for a day or two. Hang out and play video games for a bit. Remind him that you love him. Give him a hug. He's still a kid, and there are times when even sixteen-year-olds need unmitigated, unconditional love and affection. Being kicked out of the house by his abusive stepmom is one of those times.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:51 PM on January 21, 2011 [14 favorites]

If both mothers are abusive then they're both out. I wouldn't want to send him to live with someone that didn't care about him and it's obviously neither of these women do, abusive or not. What a sad situation. Can you explain why living with his dad isn't an option? And what does your brother have to say about all of this? What's his preference, if any?
posted by iconomy at 12:52 PM on January 21, 2011

"Man" / "woman " up and take care of your brother.

Its what grown-ups do.
posted by zia at 12:53 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think you need to help your brother figure out a plan. Take him in for the weekend. Be glad to see him. At 16, your brother might have some ideas about where he could live. He's probably got a good idea where he'd like to live. I would advise against dumping him with your mother against his will - certainly don't pretend it's a roadtrip without telling him your plans.

Speaking to social services is a good idea (but it wouldn't surprise me if your parents/step-parent didn't think so). They might be able to help you act as an advocate for your brother, or talk to your parents for you. If you cannot take your brother in long-term, and no one else will take him either, then social services might be the only place he can go.

If you choose to have your brother live with you, then I think you will need to sort out funding from his parents and something that means you can make emergency decisions about healthcare, and sign permission slips and so on.

This sucks for you. It sucks a lot worse for your brother.
posted by plonkee at 12:57 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

The Boys Town Hotline can help you talk through options, listen to him rant, help you find community resources, and suggest ways of correcting serious behavior problems. They take calls from caregivers as well as teens, and not just as a prelude to institutional care.
For that matter, the school and social services can do that, too, and it's possible you could be a court-appointed guardian, with the financial and moral support that entails. If you have him at your house for very long, you need backup your parents clearly aren't willing or able to provide. If for no other reason that he has a very narrow window before he's legally on his own, and lying can lead to actual jail, not just crazy stepmom locked in a closet land.
posted by SMPA at 12:59 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you do take him in (and, like PhoBWanKenobi, it sounds like it's that or foster care), please consult a lawyer to protect both you and your brother. You would probably benefit from becoming his legal guardian since his actual parents appear either unwilling or unable to care for him, but you might not be allowed to talk to his school or do anything else he needs (obtain child support payments? manage his IEP at school? interact with the cops if he gets in trouble) without legal guardianship. You appear to be the only person in his life who is even contemplating the possibility of taking him in. How would you feel, were you in his shoes?
posted by catlet at 12:59 PM on January 21, 2011

Response by poster: But you do what needs to be done, unpaletable though it may be.

You're absolutely right, and the more I think about this (it's been on my mind for months now), the more I'm leaning towards just biting the bullet and letting him move in with me. I couldn't justify sending him off to live in foster care or something like that.

My dad is out of the picture because he's stationed in a very unstable developing country right now. There is no option for my brother to go live with him.

Can I ask a follow-up question? How can we make this transition as smooth as possible? I like amtho's suggestion about incorporating him into my life. It will be difficult to even incorporate him into my space. I have a one-bedroom apartment and a very tiny/low bathroom. I'm 5'2, he's 6'1, so it will be uncomfortable for him at first, but it'll be okay.

So I guess I'm a surrogate mom now. I'm really okay with that. We're going to make it. Thanks everyone. Keep the suggestions coming.

Oh, and here's another wrinkle: my paternal grandfather also lives with my stepmother. He just called me and told me he wants to live with me too. Not. An. Option. for so many deep-seeded reasons I've never told anyone. Shit, I'm never having kids. This is way too complicated.
posted by calcetina at 1:04 PM on January 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Wow, I'm sorry, this sounds very difficult. It doesn't sound like it's your responsibility. Your mother has no good reason not to take her son in. Your father has no good reason not to come home and take a job so he can take care of his son.

That all being said, I think you are a really good sister for even considering this. Definitely, get a lawyer.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:04 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

The buck stops at your dad. He has custody, end of story. Call him and tell him that the current custodian of his child is abusive, and if he doesn't figure something out, you will call CPS. You can mention that his biological mother probably has legal obligations, and should be available as a resource to him. But that's something that your dad needs to decide on his own.

There is a reason the court gave him (primary? sole?) custody, and considering that's counter to the usual court ruling, it should not be taken lightly.

Moving overseas is not an excuse. I like crush-onastick's suggestion about contacting the appropriate military institution, if he is in service.

In a pinch, you should really consider being available as an alternative to foster care. Or find other relatives who would be willing to take that on. But work within the system. Your family is trying to avoid their legal obligations, and that is not okay.
posted by politikitty at 1:08 PM on January 21, 2011 [19 favorites]

*IF* you decide to let him live with you, can you get your parents to pitch in for a bigger place so you can each have your own bedrooms? Will they support him financially? What state do you live in?
posted by iconomy at 1:09 PM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

He just called me and told me he wants to live with me too. Not. An. Option. for so many deep-seeded reasons I've never told anyone.

He's an adult. The easy answer is no.

Please don't make excuses for the real adults/parents in the situation here. Call your mother or your father and tell them to come pick up their son.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:10 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Look I've not been anywhere near this situation (for starters, no siblings), so take this with a grain of whatever, but.
When I grew up, my mom got, several times, various of (my) cousins (some in pairs, and of all sorts of ages), randomly dumped at our doorstep because of family hassles elsewhere, and she dealt very well with most of these situations (I didn't), on the basis of two bits of wisdom:

1) Whatever your line of dealing with him will be, be consistent. Smart house rules, live by them, period, that kind of stuff.

2) Avoid anything that likens the techniques of your stepmother when interacting with him, but [okay, this comes from my own pedagogical training] be prepared that he assumes that you are playing her games. Don't be offended then, just still don't play the game, ever. 'Look, no need to lie, I'm not her. I don't lie, you don't lie. It's easier that way.' Repeat. [and obviously, don't lie]

[But really what fixedgear says, including the burgers]
posted by Namlit at 1:10 PM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

You might want to put it to him that you're the last stop before the court decides which will take the power away from all of you. And then ask him which of you (mom or you) he'll be most able to toe the line with so that it doesn't get to that point.

I agree about asking your father for help, too.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:12 PM on January 21, 2011

I'm having trouble figuring out why everyone is saying that calcetina has moral obligations to raise this kid, when we're not talking about an orphan here. We're talking about a kid with TWO BIOLOGICAL PARENTS in two separate households. What about their moral obligation? Even if it's not feasible for the kid to live with his father, the father should be obligated to step in and find some working alternative that's good for the kid, or the mother should be obligated to actually take care of her son. This is not an orphan we're talking about here!

And yes, it may sound like a bad situation to send the kid off to a parent that doesn't really want to raise him - but is it any better to have him living with a sibling who also doesn't want him and is going to resent him for pretty much wrecking her (sorry, I'm assuming her) attempt at her own life, even if she tries to bury it?

(I realize that you've said you've pretty much decided to bite the bullet calcetina, I'm just worried that you're feeling guilted into it. Whatever you choose though, good luck! I think you both need it, but you can get through it.)
posted by Stormfeather at 1:13 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

It will be difficult to even incorporate him into my space.

Contact your parents and tell them they need to pony up child support, ASAP. Move to a bigger space where you will both have a modicum of privacy and comfort.
posted by rtha at 1:18 PM on January 21, 2011 [34 favorites]

How can we make this transition as smooth as possible?

You do it together. You sit down at the table with snacks and tea and a couple of big sheets of paper: "okay, brother mine, let's both write down everything we can think of. Put a star by the things that are critically important, and underline the ones that would be nice but aren't required, and circle the ones that make you feel safe and that this is a place you belong." Then you sort them and find out that you need half an hour after work to decompress before anyone talks to you, and he needs another mirror in the bathroom so he can see the top of his head.

And you BOTH need legal advice. Since there's an existing custody agreement, that's a good place to start. Your brother living with you is a material change in his custody.

When I was 26, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I quit my dream job, moved back home, and took care of her until she died. A lot of people (including my then-boyfriend, who dumped me because "all you ever talk about is bummer adult stuff") wondered why I'd do that when I had other plans, and I kind of agreed with them when I was feeling cranky, but I did it because it was the choice I could live with. You're at that same crossroads, calcetina, and while you don't know me from Adam, I am damn proud of you for making this choice. In years to come, you will probably say "wow, that was a crazy time and I have no idea how we managed it in that tiny place, but I learned a lot about myself."
posted by catlet at 1:19 PM on January 21, 2011 [28 favorites]

This type of situation is why they invented boarding school.
posted by hazyjane at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sorry, calcetina -- older sister, I mean. Good luck.

FWIW, I'd line up a counselor if possible. Deal with stuff as early as you can, if needed. Maybe having a professional work through setting up an alliance between you and your brother could help things along a lot.
posted by amtho at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your dad does have the option of doing something for your brother. There's no way he can just get out of his obligation to his child because of a job. It sounds like he's a military contractor, not actually in the military. It's a job. It's his responsibility to work something out.

No matter what, you need to talk to his school counselor and tell them the situation and see what they might recommend.

Honestly a 25-year-old in grad school is not generally a great parent to a teenager with behavioral problems.

Your parents sound pretty irresponsible and you might have to put more pressure on them to step up.
posted by elpea at 1:27 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

You are doing the right thing. Someone has to be the adult here, and it seems pretty clear that nobody else is prepared to step up. It sucks that it has to be you. Your grandfather, on the other hand, is an adult in his own right and not your responsibility.

Consider getting legal advice and seek whatever outside help you can get.

Good luck!
posted by Urtylug at 1:28 PM on January 21, 2011

Wow. You're really in a tough spot. I empathize with you because the other comments hit the mark--you're being put on the spot by parents who are neglecting their moral and legal obligation to care for their children. Putting him into a foster-home type system is going to be all sorts of bad for your brother. Your parents need to understand this.

It's too bad for your mother that she's in the spot she's in, but it's her responsibility and it's totally unfair for you to have to pay the cost of her previous life-choices. If your dad is willing, try to help her negotiate him reserving funds in a separate bank account for your mom to pay for her next move as well to mitigate her reasonable concern.

Last, you can still offer to help in a limited way to let your brother visit on the occasional weekend contingent on him agreeing to abide by your rules. I was your younger brother growing up. If I'd had an older brother to help me escape my nasty step-parent, I would certainly have agreed to abide by his rules in order to visit once in a while. I bet your brother would do the same. Just make sure he understands your door is open to visit and talk.

Finally, if it was me, and my parents totally abdicated their responsibility, I would take him in because he's my brother. If you do this, you should make it clear to him that he needs to agree to abide by your rules and that he understands the sacrifices you have to make. Then make sure he understands your house rules and expectations. Make sure he knows the consequences of failing to follow the rules or meet expectations. Last, in addition to the financial costs your parents both must pay (yes, Mom should be made to pay, too), you should consider having them pay to have a lawyer help with a temporary guardianship or something so you have legal power to get information you need from school and to make necessary legal and medical decisions for him.
posted by Hylas at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2011

First of all, try to approach this one step at a time. You know for certain that your brother will be staying with you this weekend. Try not worry about what happens beyond that for now. Ask your brother what HE wants vis-a-vis his living situation. Offer to help him find the environment that he will feel the most comfortable living in until he's mature (and legally old) enough to live on his own. Explain to him that no matter what he chooses, he will have responsibilities (not "chores" or "expectations," honest to goodness RESPONSIBILITIES) to himself and the person(s) he's living with and that is part of what growing up and becoming an adult means.

Also, on preview, everything catlet said.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2011

if your brother is going to be living with you because his stepmother refuses to care for him any longer and his mother will not either, you need to have a conversation with your dad about him helping you out financially, as well as helping to pay for a bigger place for both you and your brother to live in. living in a tiny apartment with another person will only exacerbate the difficulties that you have getting on with your brother long term.
posted by violetk at 1:35 PM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm afraid I still think him coming to live with you is a very bad idea. If he does, the most likely outcome is that you'll drive each other batshit insane and his relationship with you will be seriously damaged. And the last thing this kid can afford is to mess up the relationship with the one remaining relative who seems to love and care about him.

Here's a boarding school that offers financial aid. There are many more out there.
posted by hazyjane at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hazyjane: And the last thing this kid can afford is to mess up the relationship with the one remaining relative who seems to love and care about him.

Why blame a 16 year old kid for his crappy circumstances? His stepmother's behavior is not an appropriate response to his negative behavior.

Boarding school, while a viable option, doesn't sound like the best choice. It seems like shipping the kid off to ignore the problem, as opposed to addressing it, and is more likely to do damage to their relationship than him going to live with her.
posted by Shirley88 at 1:48 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shirley88, I'm not blaming the kid at all! But we've all read the horror stories of all the roommates who end up hating each other after living together in large enough apartments. And these were people who chose to live together. I think it would be incredibly sad for the kid if things went down that way, and my prediction is that it would. I mean, they were "at each others' throats" after 2 1/2 days on a recent vacation!
posted by hazyjane at 1:53 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I understand he's a victim here and I feel horrible for him. At the same time, he does really stupid things

BECAUSE he is a victim. When you are so oppressed that nothing you do is right, and anything you do that is not right (see previous, this is everything) results in bizarre out-of-proportion punishment, you start misbehaving deliberately in order to have SOME control over your life. You're going to be punished no matter what. Why not do something to deserve the punishment?

Or else you start doing nothing at all. Deliberate misbehavior is a pain, but at least he still has a personality in there; he hasn't let it become so bad that he's given up on life completely. It could be much worse.

If you are willing to take him on, you and he are both going to need family counseling, to help both of you move past the attitude he currently has toward parental/authority figures. If you try to exert authority, he's likely to push back like you're the abusive parent he's been living with; you aren't, but it's the ingrained reaction now. It needs to start this week, if possible. (This is going to happen no matter who he lives with; you, at least, care. Thank you for caring.)
posted by galadriel at 1:57 PM on January 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


Great advice above. You need to:

1. CAll your dad and your mom. Explain to them that as your brother is moving in with you, they both need to pay you child support. Tell your dad to send you money (I would ask for btwn 5-10k) so that you can:
a. Get a lawyer
b. Pay legal fees to become brother's guardian
c. Get a bigger place and pay for increased costs (food, clothes for your bro, sporting equip. , whatever he's going to need)
d. Afford to cut back on your working hours so that you are around for your brother more, at least initially (this is a totally reasonable request and in line with your brothers needs). Your brother will be a part-time job for you and your parents need to provide financial support so that you can do it well. Your stepmom may also be on the hook for child support as well, check with your attorney.
2. Contact a lawyer who will help you with all the legal and financial stuff, including setting up a bank account and tracking child related expenses, and who is / isn't meeting their child support obligations.
3. You will also need to talk to child services or equivalent (boy's town?)) as you are taking alot on and will need emotional, legal and potentially state financial support if your parents dont do as they should.

On the transition, some good ideas upthread, but also strongly suggest you sit down with him and say (effectively): We have had a (roughly) equal sibling relationship. Our relationship is going to have to change as I am going to be your "parent" /legal guardian. That means I'm the adult and my job will be to take care of you. You are the child, and that means you need to respect me, go to school, get good grades, and understand that I will be doing my best to raise you and look after you. Sometimes you won't like how it is, and sometimes I'll be stressed and overwhelmed. But we are in this together and we have to make it work.

Then you can do the excercise on a blank piece of paper, but make it clear you want to know what he needs, but you have veto power if:
- its unsafe
- inappropriate (and you will be the sole judge of that)
- impossible (too expensive, too difficult)

And then listen listen listen and love him. (And let him know that he is loved and wanted! Every day!)
posted by zia at 2:08 PM on January 21, 2011 [34 favorites]

Can your parents pay for a small apartment near you for your brother to live in? Even if you are the only family member capable and semi-willing to help this young man out, that doesn't mean you have to live with him and put up with obnoxious teenage behavior in your home. Also, ask mom and dad to pay for some therapy and tutoring. Despite what they say and do, they have legal obligations to support their child. Sorry about your lame family.
posted by Scram at 2:11 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not ask your brother what he wants? I hear all this moving him around like hes some kind of commodity. Hes 16 and probably has a general idea of what he wants. Maybe he wants foster care, maybe he wants to move in with you. Lay out the choices and see what he wants to do.

Either way he has to learn that his choices have consequences. He has spent so much time being moved and harassed, neglected, and ignored I bet if you let him make the choice he would do whatever it took to make that choice work.

Just something to think about.
posted by Takeyourtime at 2:11 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing the idea that if the kid comes to live with you, there needs to be a formal transfer of guardianship.

Were I in this situation -- after I drank, like, a pitcher of scotch and then sobered up again -- I would call the stepmother and say "I'm happy to have {brother} here for the weekend. But then you need to take him back again until we can formally transfer guardianship, including any child support, to me. Does he have a caseworker already in the family court system whom I should be calling to get the ball rolling?"

DO NOT accept him as living with you for more than 72 hours until that guardianship transfer has been accomplished. Because otherwise it never will, and you'll end up with all the responsibility but none of the power.
posted by KathrynT at 2:16 PM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

If you do take him in you should read this thread about the things to consider when taking in a 16-year-old. SMPA's comment in particular is awesome. Figuring that stuff out (with him) as early as possible will go a long way to smoothing the transition.
posted by stefanie at 2:23 PM on January 21, 2011

I haven't been in this situation, so I don't have any advice, but I have to say that there will come a day when your brother is amazed that you did this for him. The next 2 years or so may be difficult, even so, you will always be the one who took him in. Being wanted by you when the rest of his family bailed out may end up being very important for his self-esteem and feelings of worth.

As an older sister to younger brothers, I can say for sure that they change a lot between ages 16 and 30. At least in my observation, they grow up, they take more responsibility, and they become more aware of the world in general. You may very well be laying the groundwork for a close, lifelong relationship.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:40 PM on January 21, 2011

calcetina, where are you located? It sounds like you could use a social network, if you don't have one already, and your brother might benefit from meeting some solid caring people. Maybe there could be a MeFi meetup at a local cafe or something, just to have a nice, welcoming atmosphere for even one night...
posted by amtho at 2:42 PM on January 21, 2011

I took my brother in at that age for about 3 years. zia's advice is spot on about the legal and necessary steps you'll want to follow if you do take him in. You'll definitely want to get a bigger place- that was part of what kept me sane. There's a lot of great advice in this thread, and you have a community of resources that you should definitely avail yourself of.
posted by Zophi at 2:50 PM on January 21, 2011

Put your brother in the car, yell 'road trip!' Drive 1,000 miles, stopping for burgers along the way. Leave him with his mother. Wave goodbye.

And enjoy your kidnapping charge.

Seriously, don't do that. Or anything else that oversteps your legal authority. If your stepmother is that controlling you need to be cautious in however you work this since she could turn around on a dime and get you involved in a legal matter.

As KathrynT says, there are legal protections you can go through to better protect yourself here, though I'm unsure how they'd be managed with the actual custodial parent overseas.

Before you jump into this feet-first, perhaps there's a way you can help your brother and not turn this into entirely your responsibility. If your stepmother is at a breaking point then you might be able to negotiate some sort of shared situation where you can prevent this abusive behavior with regards to his restrictions.

I don't know what that is and I don't see how you can either when you're suddenly in this position. Were this my decision I'd tell your stepmother that "possibly longer" is not an acceptable condition to leave this in. You'll be happy to take him for the weekend and let the two of them get some distance and cool off but come Monday your brother needs to come home and you and she need to sit down and discuss the situation.

That gives you some time to talk with your brother and mull the situation over. Making decisions this significant while things are this charged up seems like a recipe for trouble.
posted by phearlez at 2:54 PM on January 21, 2011

Don't do this. Make him live with the stepmom or your mom. Stop taking on everyone else's burden.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:16 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went to boarding school for high school. And a lot of the kids there were in similar situations to your brother's. But going through boarding school made us independent in ways we never would have gotten at home. And part of it was a Music/Arts school (ISOMATA, in California) and the kids there were living a great dream, like Hogwarts for artists and musicans. If there's any sort of thing your brother is very interested in; music? athletics? art? Then you could do worse than to help him look into a boarding school or even summer camp where he could expand his own hopes and dreams and get out from what seems like a very frustrating existance.
posted by The otter lady at 3:58 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

If his own mother is not capable of showing him basic fucking acceptance/love/care, but you think you can do that, then--for the sake of this kid who appears to have no one who is willing to CARE FOR HIM (and I guarantee you that he understands that all of these people who are supposed to love and care about him because he's their child are rejecting him and trying to get rid of him)--try to be there for him if you can do it.
posted by so_gracefully at 4:42 PM on January 21, 2011

I agree with everyone who's asking, what does he want?

I don't think you should feel like you have to agree to put his needs above yours just because his parents and step-parents won't, but even if you've decided you will, you taking him in still might not be the best thing for him (especially considering that he told you he didn't think it was a good idea either.) Why don't you try to have an honest conversation with him where you say "I really want what's best for you. I'm not sure whether staying with me is what's best for you, but let's talk more about that and figure it out together. What do you think? What do you want to do?" And then talk about things like boarding school, which may be a really good option if it's something he feels like he has a choice in rather than being sent away because no one wants him; or whether he has friends whose parents might be willing to take him in temporarily or permanently; or whether he'd rather go live with your mom; or whatever. Even if he says "The only thing I really want is to live on my own" and you really don't think he's mature enough to, you should consider trying to brainstorm options where he gets his own place and you check in on him on a regular basis, or you try to find a place with an upstairs and a basement apartment and you mostly stay out of eachothers' hair but you're close enough to keep an eye on him, or whatever. If you can't find something that you're both pretty okay with, you really don't want to run the risk of your resentment and frustration with eachother growing until, as hazyjane worries, the relationship with the one remaining relative who seems to love and care about him is seriously damaged. In my opinion, it's better even for him to be in foster care but truly believing that you love him and want what's best for him, than for him to live with you for a little while and you're both terribly unhappy and eventually he ends up feeling like no one on the damn planet wants him or cares about him.

(I know that a lot of these different options cost money, but damn, if you're going to let all of his parents/step-parents off the hook for caring for him, you better hold them accountable for at least paying money to make the situation more workable. Up to and including actually legally trying to pursue child support, if it comes to that.)

P.S. If you are going to be living together (or even if you're not), it would probably be a good idea to try to work on processing the effects that your mom's abuse had on you, because this sounds pretty misplaced and unfair to your brother:

I was in a similar but much less severe situation with my biological mother when I was growing up. She was somewhat emotionally and occasionally physically abusive to me. I quickly learned to keep my nose clean and stay out of trouble, lest I draw any of her anger toward me. So if you sense any anger or resentment towards my brother, it's probably stemming from that. He tries to argue and talk back to my stepmother when she's angry, instead of just shutting up and letting her rant. Sometimes, you have to just nod and smile and let the other person think they won.

Both of you have had to deal with abuse, which sucks and neither of you should have had to deal with. You had/have different responses and coping styles. But the abuse wasn't your fault, and it isn't his fault either, even when he argues back instead of being "good" and trying to avoid it like you did. Your anger and resentment belong with your mother and with your step-mother for being the abusers. I'm sure you know that in your mind already, and it's totally understandable for you to be mentally/emotionally screwed up about this after what you've been through... just because your reactions are unfair to him doesn't mean you're a bad person for feeling that way. But since your relationship is already going to be facing a lot of challenges, I think you'll both be happier if you try as hard as you can, through therapy or other means, to process that and let go of being angry at him for "provoking" the abuse instead of responding the "right" way like you did.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:07 PM on January 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

You said that your paternal grandfather is also asking to live with you. To me, this statement combined with everything going on with your brother raises *huge* red flags about what's going on in the home--the first thing I thought of was that your stepmother is abusing your grandfather as well as your brother. Please, call DHS or whatever the appropriate agency is near you. They can help you in making a home for your brother and/or force your mom to step up to the plate, and they can help protect both your brother and your grandfather.
posted by epj at 5:29 PM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

I am adding a "what the hell" to the people who are saying that the OP is "responsible" for caring for a teenager with two living biological parents and at least one living step-parent. That's nonsense.

You are not actually responsible for providing a place to live for your brother, let alone for your grandfather. Your father has made a spectacularly shitty decision about a spouse (barring some sudden radical change in her behavior or personality because of a brain tumor or whatever) and he needs to deal with that. Yes, even if he works overseas with the military, he needs to deal with that. Your mother is just apparently too lazy to parent. Awesome! I applaud you for being a good egg despite being these people's child.

Okay. So your father needs to deal with his stuff. And your mother needs to deal with her stuff. And if you choose to have your brother live with you, and he chooses to live with you, you need legal guardianship and child support.

Because if he comes to live with you and you're not his legal guardian, you can't do anything like enroll him in school or authorize medical treatment for him. Which is a problem, because he needs both to be in school and therapy, seeing as he's been discarded by both his biological parents and at least one step-parent. I mean, yeah, he sounds like an annoying teenager, but if I were in this situation, I would probably be a serial killer.

And you need child support because you clearly need a bigger and better place to live. Also, growing kids, especially boys, eat a lot. A lot.

If you guys choose to live together, you will be doing your parents an enormous favor. (Perhaps also enabling their dysfunction, but since your brother is a legal minor who needs somewhere to live with people who aren't abusing or rejecting him, I can see why you might choose to put that issue on the back burner.) If they don't understand this and honor it and support it (both financially/legally and emotionally), they are falling down on their job. It's great when siblings take care of their younger siblings, but it's necessary for parents to take care of their minor children.

As for your grandfather, I would speak with Elder Services and/or Adult Protective Services, because it sounds like he needs an advocate.

And please, please don't do the "My brother should handle abuse the way I did" thing, because everyone has their own way of handling abuse. And every child lives in a different family, even when they have the same parents (and it sounds like you didn't have to deal with this terrible stepmother yourself, anyway). That is just a spiral of anger and distancing that isn't going to get you anywhere.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:15 PM on January 21, 2011 [18 favorites]

I really, really don't think that he should live with you.

I can't emphasise this enough.

It sounds from your question that having him living with you could damage

your ability to do your job
your grad school
your small business
your relationship with your boyfriend

and your relationship with your brother (because you will resent him, because you won't get along in a small space.)

You need to "fit your own oxygen mask first" as people say.

I would phone your dad, tell him what you've told us, and see what he says. Can your brother stay overseas with your dad?

I would also phone his biological mother, explain the situation with the stepmom, and see what she says.

Do you have any Aunts, Uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends of the family who care?

Could he live with flatmates, with people checking in on him (including a social worker if necessary) once a week?
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 7:12 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

The grandpa thing was the final straw for me -- dear calcetina, I fear the people around you have absolutely no comprehension of boundaries, are terribly immature, quasi-adults, and from your own post, I think may be you too are a little fuzzy on the concept of boundaries. But that's ok -- you sound like a good, responsible sister, frustrated and conflicted, and that's exactly the way you should be feeling. (By the way, having experience with teenagers, lying and skipping school and back talking are Normal. Your kid brother has gotten a bum deal and if these are the worst of his crimes, you are lucky. But. He needs help now, that's all there is to it.)

Sure, there are at least 3 allegedly responsible adults in the mix, and while I favorited, Drop him off at Mom's, in order to unburden you, I'm torn. I think you may be his best bet. And who knows? It may turn out to be a very important and good thing for you, too.
Most critically: Get The Money. Every one of the three adults who is SHIRKING their emotional/moral responsibility, including your dad, including your mom ... and let's toss gramps in there too -- needs to pay. Each one of them needs to help you out financially right now. Like, wire money to account pronto. Good good luck, girl. This might work.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:54 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't know this kid and I'm going against the grain, so this is probably bad advice. But this guy has had nothing but shitty authority figures. And you're siblings. So I wouldn't be like "here are the 12 house rules." In his shoes, I'd break them just to discover what happened. Then do you forgive him and let him learn your rules don't mean anything? Or do you get harsh and kick him out like everyone else in his life?

So, no, no rules. Instead, I'd be like "hey, sorry our parents suck. welcome to adulthood, bro. You got any money? Because I think we need to get a bigger place." Then, think it through together. Get child support from the adults, but do it together. And so forth.

If he starts being crazy, don't get authoritarian. Instead be like "you want to flunk out? You know that they quit paying child support if that happens, right? Hope you have a plan for coming up with $1200/ month, because I sure can't cover your rent."

Let the burden of him remain on him, as much as possible. Ask coaching questions: "so, were you thinking about going to college? What are your ideas about how to go about that?" And be super-sympathetic about how much your parents suck, and be open about how it has impacted you. You guys both survived some really abusive stuff. He probably has insights about them that you don't (and vice versa).

Or avoid this cohabitation altogether!
posted by salvia at 9:48 PM on January 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

(skipping school, lying to teachers, failing classes, ignoring/disobeying house rules)

These are forms of resistance and do not make your brother a bad person --- but adults do criminalize them.

If adults were told when to learn, what to learn, how to learn it , whom they can spend time with, whom they can speak to, when they're allowed to go to the bathroom and monitored by non-family adults for hours and hours each day....they'd, well,..... they'd form unions.

And the only response parents seem to have when children fail to thrive in that environment is to mirror that environment by creating the same restrictive conditions at home. They become bullies on the school system's behalf.

Whether or not you're able to have your brother stay with you---ask him a lot of questions. Open-ended questions. Qeustions that have to do with what he wants/needs right now in life---not questions that amount to "what do I have to do to get you off my couch and succeding in school"

And find some way to share generative (as opposed to "productive") interesting relief time with him. Even if it's something like "you can stay with me if, once a week, you watch a movie of my choosing and spend time discussing it with me" and then choose some interesting, intelligent movies on which he'll be expected to have an opinion and change them up once in awhile with movies he'll love. Or tell him he can stay with you if, once a week, he helps you learn to cook a new recipe of a new to you food from scratch.

Never discuss family strife during this time unless he brings it up.

And try not to have conversations with him when your overwhelming impulse is to start a sentence with "why don't you just..."

Or do these things with him even if he doesn't stay to live with you.

Take him every weekend whether he's "on punishment" or not. And NEVER let your stepmom restrict your access to him again. I'm appalled that his family members would abide by that constraint --absolutely appalled.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:05 AM on January 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

Just to add another voice to the boarding school debate, I went to one and I agree that it would be pretty good for this situation. They are indeed made just for this sort of thing, and you don't really have the option to skip school/lie to teachers/fail classes. Most of the other kids there come from a similar situation, and a lot of them have stepped up and taken responsibility for themselves. This gives you a lot of mature, responsible role models that are still cool kids that you enjoy hanging out with, and the public school stigma of being an uncool total nerd when you take an interest in learning and acting like a mature grown up isn't there at all. I really believe that I am a much better person for having gone to a boarding school.
posted by LarrenD at 4:00 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with the other commenters who suggest that if you do get involved, you should give your brother as much agency as possible. 16 year olds can be stupid and immature, but they can also do more than a lot of people give them credit for (or remember they could do at that age).

I disagree that if he comes to live with you, you take up the "I am the parent now" banner. Why? Because you're *not* his parent, and he knows this, and he will resent what will certainly look to him like dishonesty and disingenuousness.

This is not to say you are his new BFF. Rather, I would suggest as a couple commenters above have suggested and have a frank discussion about what you both need to make things work. Find out both of your priorities and strategize together. You don't want to get fired, don't want to flunk out of school, and don't want the kid to make things weird with your new man. You also want your brother to have a decent living environment for once. Even an immature 16 year old can appreciate these things so just tell him flat out. And find out what his priorities are and work together to meet both your needs. The listmaking suggested above is a great idea.

I feel like I say this a lot, but really the way to deal with kids (teenagers especially) is to show them some respect. It's easy to forget how much of their lives are full of arbtirary authority figures and bullshit rules, which makes kids like your brother rebel against *all* authority figures and rules, even the legitimate ones. You can differentiate yourself by removing the arbitrariness as much as possible: explain things and get his input. i.e. don't just yell at him to not leave dishes in the sink, explain that this is not what people do because the dishes get stinky and it also makes more work for the other person living there, which is not fair. Explain it once, subsequent infractions get a "hey remember we talked about this? I need you to [do/not do X]" Also, pick your battles. He doesn't make his bed? Really, who cares? I don't know anyone who makes their bed every day. He doesn't do his homework? That's different. It will be kind of like living with a really stupid roommate.

He may not get it immediately, but you will build respect. Then in the rare situation where you *do* have to exercise sister veto power, it carries a lot more weight.

I have no delusions that this will be easy, but giving your brother the respect, (appropriate level of) personal space, and compassion that no one else has shown him will eventually help.

Anyway that's what I'd do. Good luck.
posted by AV at 5:56 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have been on the phone with my folks all evening. Here's what we've worked out:

My mother has agreed to let my brother live with her for his last 2 semesters of high school. He will move there as soon as school is out in June. She's totally cool with this and suggested it before I did. Dad will pay child support.

This is more or less set in stone. Great!

The 4-5 months between now and then are still undecided, but everyone agrees (brother included) that he should stay here to finish out the school year .

Dad is more than willing to pay rent and child support if I took care of him but thinks it doesn't make sense to ask me to move to a 2 bedroom right now, only to have to move again less than 6 months later or be stuck in a lease for a too big apartment miles away from work, school, etc.

It appears that I am off the table as a permanent or semi-permanent solution.

Other solutions include: 1) living with friends 2) living with stepmom, but spending a lot of time with me (once a week or every other weekend, something like that). We're still considering other options. We've got the rest of the weekend to figure it out.

It's been a long day. I'm super-tired. I've been reading and re-reading everyone's suggestions and taking them into account. Thank you so much everyone.
posted by calcetina at 6:28 AM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh, good to hear. Good luck with it all; hope this works out well for him and for you.
posted by galadriel at 8:06 AM on January 22, 2011

Ah, I'm glad to hear it! Hope everything goes well. Thanks for keeping us updated.
posted by rtha at 9:14 AM on January 22, 2011

I was in a similar but much less severe situation with my biological mother when I was growing up. She was somewhat emotionally and occasionally physically abusive to me.

I'm concerned that he is going to live with someone who was emotionally and physically abusive to you. Do you think that she will be so to him?
posted by bleary at 10:34 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I'm concerned that he is going to live with someone who was emotionally and physically abusive to you. Do you think that she will be so to him?"

He's in for a rough ride at your mom's. Plus, that is a ways off. Don't be surprised if your mom flips out or changes the plan just before he's set to move. Similarly, she might kick him out within a few weeks of his arrival. Abusive people are volatile and they can't be counted on day-to-day. Sorry.

The good news is he'll only be there for two semesters. The bad news is he will not be in any emotional position to live on h own once he graduates. Your brother has never lived someplace where he has been safe. Self-care has never been mirrored for him in an appropriate way.

He needs therapy from now until he graduates high school, he needs a safe place and an advocate. This safe place and advocate must be outside of his family dynamic.

Reading all of these answers, and having my own experiences in this arena.... I like the boarding school idea best.
posted by jbenben at 11:17 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Glad to hear that something has been worked out, and wishing you *all* luck! Well, you and your brother at least. And your grandfather.
posted by Stormfeather at 12:24 PM on January 22, 2011

I don't understand why the mom is only agreeing to 2 semesters, as if that's not her son and not her responsibility! I just don't get it.

Here's another vote for boarding school, which normally I would never consider, but it seems an almost perfect solution for your brother who needs both stablity and discipline at this point.

Anyway, I applaud you for being a great sister.
posted by GeniPalm at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: GeniPalm, I worded that a little strangely. The assumption is that after 2 semesters he will graduate and go to college. If he doesn't go on to college, he can still stay with my mother. She's not going to kick him out the day after he graduates.

Last update: living arrangements have been finalized. He's living with his best friend right now until the end of the school year. The family is thrilled to have him.

Thanks everyone.
posted by calcetina at 6:20 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

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