Q. Next-Door Neighbor's Cat Has Adopted Me: My husband and I live in one half of a duplex with our cat. The other half is rented by three young single guys, one of whom has a cat. The cat has "adopted" us—whenever we come home, the cat is there, running in the front door, even jumping in our cars before we can get out! The cat is not well fed, and we've started feeding it and taking care of it, but not letting it stay in the house out of respect for our neighbors. The cat is left outside all day and night, and coyotes run around our neighborhood. We worry that a coyote will get it. I know the cat is owned by our neighbors, but has "chosen" us. Is there ever a point at which we can "accept" the cat's decision and keep it with us? I feel just awful sending it away, but at the same time don't want to steal someone's pet.
A: There is a moral obligation to having a pet and these guys have abrogated it. It sounds as if you really like the cat and want to provide it with a good home. So go over to your neighbors, explain you are concerned about the cat's health and safety, that it has informally adopted you, and you want to make the adoption formal. Say you'd be happy to provide ample visitation. Let's hope the purported owner agrees. If not, I think you should just start letting the cat spend the night. The jerk next door won't even notice.
Q. Adoption and Family: My husband and I tried to have children by every means available for 10 years. We are currently in the process of adopting two beautiful and wonderful children that we absolutely adore. I do what I can to protect them from negative comments regarding their placement and adoption, but I have a mother-in-law that continues to call my SIL's children her "real grandchildren" despite my husband's speaking with her about how this is hurtful and damaging to our family. It is to the point that I do not want to visit or go to family functions to avoid putting all of us in that situation, but my husband says the kids will need to toughen up and learn to handle these issues in a positive manner. Do you have any suggestions on how we can handle my MIL in a constructive way?
A: I'd be tempted to buy Grandma a one-way ticket to Ukraine, put her on the plane, and wish her a long, well-deserved holiday. Your husband is right that parents can't protect their children from every nasty experience or person. But when one of the nastiest is the kids' grandmother, then you have to step in. Perhaps your mother-in-law would agree to attend just a couple of sessions with your social worker to talk about adoption issues. Maybe hearing from a professional how damaging it is to make a distinction between adopted and biological children will bring some enlightenment to this insensitive twit. If that doesn't work, then your husband has to tell your mother that he cannot allow his children to be addressed in such a destructive fashion and that limiting contact with his family is the last thing he wants, but he is going to be forced to. He can say to her that surely as a mother she can understand that the number one obligation of parents is to look out for the welfare of their children.
Q. Adoption Refusal: I'm being asked to give advice in a situation that I have no idea how to handle. My mother and father have recently received guardianship of my aunt's (mom's sister) two children, ages 4 and 7. They were removed from my aunt and uncle's house by the state due to unsafe living conditions and evidence of drug use by the parents. My mother jumped at the chance to take them before they ended up in foster care. Currently they are doing well, except for a few issues that stem from living in a drug house with neglectful parents. It is taking all of my mother's time and energy to care for these two children in addition to my brother and sister who are 9 and 15. Recently we found out my aunt is pregnant again, about 5 months along. We know she's been drinking and abusing, and with the current situation it's likely the state will take the baby away as soon as it's born. My mom asked me if I think they should take this new baby as well should that happen. I hedged because the answer I want to give is different from what my mom expected to hear. She thinks I should be all for it, but Prudie, I don't think my mom can handle another baby! I think the baby should be adopted out, however my aunt is refusing to even consider it. I'm being expected to give my full support on this and I just can't. I don't think my aunt should be given an easy way out instead of having to clean up her act to take care of her children. What do I say to this?
A: I hope there is a case worker your mother trusts dealing with the families. If not, and your family can afford it, it would be extremely helpful to hire a social worker with expertise in these kinds of situations. The authorities have to be notified that your aunt is drinking and taking drugs, which as you know could have profound consequences for this poor baby. Your mother has asked your advice, and you have to be honest. I agree that bringing two children with enormous emotional needs into an existing family is stressful enough. Caring for an infant who likely will have additional medical issues could be overwhelming, and having your mother deal with more than she can handle will not be good for anyone. Again, I hope there are reliable professionals who can help guide your family through this very hard time. Sadly, in some cases there are no good answers, and all people can do is struggle through and try to protect the vulnerable.
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