Dear Prudence: My sister-in-law won’t adopt a developmentally disabled child.

Help! My Sister-in-Law Won’t Adopt a Developmentally Disabled Child.

Help! My Sister-in-Law Won’t Adopt a Developmentally Disabled Child.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 16 2014 3:04 PM

Unwelcome Home

My sister-in-law won’t adopt a developmentally disabled child. As the parent of one, I’m offended.

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Q. Re: Adoptive baby: I read it as her saying the agency only handles nondisabled children for adoption. Hence her suggesting another agency to her brother. Which makes it even more ridiculous that she is taking it so personally!

A: OK, thanks for the clarification. But while an agency might not specialize in babies with obvious disabilities, no one can “guarantee” that a child will ultimately not have special needs. All this only means that this woman needs to examine her own discomfort and defensiveness and stay far away from anyone else’s choices.

Q. Re: Adoptive baby: I’m a 33-year-old with a brother with developmental disabilities; I’m a carrier for the same disorder. I love my brother immensely. But one of the reasons I’m not having kids is because I know I couldn’t do what my parents did. Your SIL’s recognizing her own shortcomings does not mean she doesn’t love your kid.


A: Thank you for making this powerful point.

Q: Dog Thought Dentures Were Chew Toys: My lady friend and I both have dogs. Mine is 5 years old and generally well-behaved while hers is a 1-year-old who can think that the world is her chew toy. My lady friend was doing a good deed and letting her best friend use her spare bedroom to visit the friend’s mom in the hospital since the friend lives an hour away. Unbeknownst to us, the friend, who has dogs of her own, had taken her mom’s dentures and left them in an open duffel bag on the floor of the guest room while the three of us went out to dinner to give her relief from visiting the hospital. When we got back, her mom’s dentures were bitten into pieces by one of the dogs. And apparently these dentures cost about $5,000. The friend doesn’t want to tell her mom about the loss, because the mom has been in intensive care for a week and “is not out of the woods yet.” Also the friend is dropping hints that my lady friend should just write a check for $5,000 for replacement costs. My lady friend says “no good deed goes unpunished” and she didn’t know that there were valuable dentures left on the floor. All of us are gainfully employed, but none of us can easily spare several thousand dollars. If the friend’s mom survives and if she doesn’t have replacement coverage or spare dentures, who should pay and why?

A: Ah, the ghost of my late dog Sasha. We kept a fund during the years we had her for the shoes, wallets, bags, etc. of our guests that the dog ate when anyone dared leave anything chewable within beagle distance. Of course we warned people, but you just can’t anticipate everything, such as a pair of yummy fake teeth more enticing than a Kong. First of all, since the mother doesn’t know about the loss—and I agree she shouldn’t until she’s ready for discharge, since the idea of losing her teeth might cause a relapse—none of you knows whether she has dental insurance. Presumably she does, since $5,000 dentures are the top of the line. If so, and if the dentist has kept casts of the mother’s teeth, replacement cost might be substantially less. This friend is making noises about your girlfriend needing to write a check for $5,000, but you two are pretending you don’t speak this language, so I think you should keep up this little dance. Once the mother hears the news, and you all know the potential cost of replacement, I think it would be generous to offer to pay something—in the several-hundred-dollar range—for the loss. Let’s hope the mother is so happy to be alive, that she can put having to replace her choppers into perspective.

Q. Re: Adoptive baby: Most adoption agencies place online a short profile of prospective parents—which is what the adoptive mom looked at. She didn’t do any snooping. We have two adopted children with Down syndrome—and we love them. But we also realize that people have to make their own decisions about adoption, and parenting in general, and we have to respect them. When we adopted two disabled children, we were second-guessed, and we resented it. We wouldn’t want to do the same to others.

A: We looked into adoption at one point, and I do not remember ever seeing profiles of the people hoping for children. Some of the agencies had profiles of people who had adopted and who wanted to post their stories, but not people who were in process. I’m stunned by the idea that this private information would be made public.

Q. My Mentor Married a Monster: Gloria has been first a mentor and then a mother figure to me since we began working together two years ago. I was shocked when I found out she'd gotten married; I hadn't even realized she was dating someone. I have since learned that Gloria's husband Jason is a prison inmate. From what little she told me, I surmised his crime was serious enough in nature that he might never be released. Against my better judgment, I did an Internet search and found out Jason raped three women. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I despise sexual predators, and now I can barely look Gloria in the eye. I cannot understand why she would marry a rapist. I cannot help but feel she is pathetic and desperate. I don't know how to continue our relationship, and it is exhausting for me to pretend like nothing has changed between us. What should I do?

A: You probably didn't know Gloria was dating because she was seeing someone she could only view behind Plexiglass and whose wardrobe will consist of orange jumpsuits until his demise. You say you "found out" Gloria had married this monster, so I'm assuming you didn't receive an invitation to the wedding shower and the news didn't come from her. You don't need to have survived your own horror—and I'm sorry about what you went through—to be horrified by Gloria's judgment. I agree anyone who marries a violent inmate has serious problems of her own, ones whose depths you don't want to plumb. But this is a private matter for Gloria and since she apparently has kept it out of the workplace, so should you. Mentors can be wonderful, but they can also be stifling, so obviously it's time for you to ease your way out of this relationship. As for her being a “mother figure”—consider that that isn't what you need professionally, so also make a course correction in this aspect of your relationship. You do not have to understand Gloria, you just have to be able to get along with her. 

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.