Son's friend in toxic home environment- need advice

<p>Sorry in advance for the long post.</p>

<p>My son has a friend (John- not his real name) who is being raised by his (young) GPs. For the past (almost) 2 years, they have been going around and round on what he can and can't do. They kick him out for violations- not walking the dog or cleaning his room. Or he leaves because he's had enough of the games they play. He's no angel- he's 18 and a typical teenager looking for boundaries. DS has told me that John will antagonize GPs over some of the things they want him to do. GPs do the same- if they call he has 10 seconds to appear and say- yes sir, or yes, ma'am.</p>

<p>Every time John leaves (moves out), the GPs call the parents of the places he lives at and tells the parents 'stories' of John's transgressions. Most of the parents then tell John to leave, and his GPs then ask him to come home.</p>

<p>I know I only see the good side of John when he comes over for the all nighter's that DS has with his friends- playing online games. From what I can see John and his GPs have a toxic relationship.</p>

<p>I want to offer John a place to stay while he finishes out his school year- he is graduating early- this December from the alternative program the high school offers. He then wants to join the military.</p>

<p>I would like to get him out of his home is because of the latest situation- son and I went to pick John up at his house. DS went inside to help John get his computer. We got almost home and he gets a phone call from GP- come home now, you didn't clean your room well enough. Turns out, John had left a pot of rice on the stove with a lid on it. Rice was cooked- he had made it for his brother. Stove was turned off, rice just wasn't put away. he also had two pairs of jeans on the floor in his closet.</p>

<p>Ds tells me the GPs took the rice poured it on John's bed, took the trash out of the trashcan and poured it on the bed, found some dog poop, put it on the bed, added all his clothes- clean and dirty.... and then told John his room was messy and he couldn't go over to friends house.</p>

<p>DS has a picture of the mess that John sent him. DS says when he went inside the first time, that John's room was neat and clean. Everything in its place.</p>

<p>Yesterday, John had asked DS if he could get a ride to the bank so he could deposit his check. I asked John if it would help if another person talked with his GPs. He says they (the GPs) have told him they better not get any more phone calls from his friends parents. (Other parents have called to talk to John's GPs). Nothing ever comes from it.</p>

<p>From what I have seen JOhn is a normal teenager- someone who doesn't always make the best choices, but also not someone who should be treated like this. I have talked with DS about the possibility of letting John move in with us until he graduates HS. DS, like me, is a little on the fence. Says John isn't the brightest bulb in the bunch and some of the things he does on purpose to antagonize his GPs. He also doesn't think he should stay at GPs house, but isn't sure how John would behave if he lived with us.</p>

<p>Hubby and I have talked about this before- the last time John was kicked out. We were on the fence about it. I was going to bring it up to hubby again, but think I need some advice from the CC community. Has anyone ever taken in a 'troubled kid' and what were the ground rules you had in place before the kid moved in?</p>

<p>My thoughts were to have a sit down discussion with John (if we do this) and talk about expectations- on both sides. Maybe even have a contract of some sort- so we can agree up front on what we expect from him and what he can expect from us.</p>

<p>Any more ideas or suggestions?</p>

<p>My advice would be to do nothing. Families have diferent dynamics, you may not approve of this one, but if John is not being abused, it's usually best to not intrude on a family. You don't have the whole picture and it's not up to you to decide what's best for John. That your son is on the fence should tell you a lot.</p>

<p>If you believe he is being abused, report it to CPS.</p>

<p>My advice is that unless any kid is in danger either verbally or physically other people should not offer their home to them on a permanent basis. Your sons friend sounds like he may be a handful and you only know one side to the story. The kid keeps going back to the GPs home so maybe these are the dynamics of that family.</p>

<p>Sounds to me like John is being emotionally abused, and, like you, I'd want him out of that situation (though not saying that I'd take him in). Dh's brother left home at one point and moved in with a friend's family. I don't know all the details, but it worked out fine.</p>

<p>YDS- I think he's being emotionally abused too. Some of the things they have done to this kid- telling all relatives a version of their truth. So he has nobody to turn to. Because of how he has handled things- a little hot headed has also made it harder. The GPs have done a good job at making sure this kid has no place to turn.</p>

<p>Last year, JOhn had gone outside at 2am to call a girlfriend. He didn't get cell service inside his house. It's almost a complete dead zone.... anyway, his gradnfather got up, so the door was unlocked, saw John missing, locked the door, alarmed the house and then had his cell service cut off. John had to breakinto the house to get back in. The GP told him the next day- I thought you had run away. It was 2 weeks before he got his cell phone turned back on.</p>

<p>It's things like this that worry me. The we want you out/we want you back. The you didn't do what we wanted in that instance, so we're taking everything away from you- no internet, no tv, etc. Then 2 weeks will go by and he will get it all back.</p>

<p>We have met the GPs once before and at the time, we thought they were a little different. But hey, not everyone can be the same and not everyone paretns the same way either. But still. Something isn't quite right.</p>

<p>Definitely sounds like abuse. I've known a family who had a boy live with them so long, he's their extra son. To this day, he remains close with these parents (20-30 years later).</p>

<p>Calling in DSS can backfire, IMHO. No real practical advice to you, OP. If these GPs had trouble with their own child, they may be determined to be extra strict with their grandkids. When they try to hold on too tight, can lead to trouble. Removing one son from the situation still leaves one at home with GPs.</p>

<p>bookworm- you're right... but the GPs don't mess with John's brother at all. It's wierd- like a good seed/bad seed type thing. John's brother got a brand new computer, John got a "new" video card.</p>

<p>It's a big step to offer him a place to live until December, and you're right to think about talking it out with John and having some kind of contract first. I think you have the right instincts, and that this kid needs a safe haven -- which his GP's house definitely is NOT. </p>

<p>I wonder if talking to John seriously about the idea, and letting the GPs know, maybe be all that is needed. If the GPs know that John has a place to go, they may not be so draconian with his punishments anymore. And if they continue with the same abuse, he will be able to leave.</p>

<p>Putting trash, dumping food and dog poop on his bed? Definitely sounds like emotional abuse to me. Is that acceptable behavior in anyone's household? I think not. If you can help this child out in any way, please do so. All he needs is a safe place to be and some good counseling. Most importantly, he needs to get out of that toxic environment.</p>

<p>John is 18. He can live where he chooses. He doesn't need guardian permission for any school purpose. He has outgrown anything CPS could do for him. </p>

<p>John needs to decide where he wants to be. He may choose to endure this emotional abuse (and that's what it is) for another 5 months for the sake of his brother. Yes, brother is fine. But, the 2 of them may have a close bond that neither wants to end early. </p>

<p>Or, he may choose to leave. If he moves in with you, I agree that a formal agreement should be in place. Maybe even charge a nominal rent. Keep in mind that these wacko GPs probably won't allow him to take any valuable belongings with him if he leaves. Cell phone, PC, etc., are probably going to have to stay with GPs.</p>

<p>Good luck!</p>

<p>I think it would be a great gift to John to offer him a place to stay for the next few months. Besides getting him out of the toxic situation, it would give him the experience living in a functional household with kind people before he launches out into the adult world. That experience could have a lifelong impact on him.</p>

<p>Have you considered offering him a week in your home this summer, calling it a vacation week. Check with son first if that seems do-able. Maybe after a week you'd know whether it might work for an entire term. Don't make a big deal out of the week, either, and don't let on to him it's a trial week in your mind. Keep all that to yourself, so he doesn't act any way other than his normal self in the span of a week. Also create a time with your son following that week to evaluate whether the one-week situation stressed out your own son in ways he couldn't handle. You don't want to throw off the balance of your own household in your own son's final year, either. </p>

<p>Is there any kind of community counseling service the young man could access on his own with a sliding scale payment rate? If you have resources you might offer him that rather than your roof, although I can see why you are motivated to offer your roof.</p>

<p>Does your son's hs have a School Social Worker that YOU could call for advice on your options and the implications of each choice? For confidentiality, she can't divulge anything to you about the boy or his family. But perhaps s/he might be able to advise you, as a parent, on the wisdom of making such an offer.</p>

<p>I'm a bit concerned you might find the wacko GP's on your doorstep once he's living with you, but then I think you could call the police on them and surely not let them into your home. That'd change the power balance but you have to be ready for some surprises when you deal with irrational people.
If you do offer him sanctuary, know your legal rights so the GP's don't harass the peace of your own home.</p>

<p>If you end up not able to make this offer, don't underestimate the value of his simply being able to come to your house to visit. He's lived with them a long time and will soon be out. Meanwhile, he's seeing how a safe home works and the message won't be lost on him.</p>

<p>I don't know whether you should take him in or not, but I hope there is SOME way to get him out of there because his grandparents sound crazy.</p>

<p>I think the whole family needs help. </p>

<p>First, John. Note that John is in an alternative HS. That tells me he has difficulties with the typical schools's rules of attending class and doing homework (maybe getting drugs? skipping school?), like most kids. However, that certainly doesn't sound like John needs to be treated poorly because he had issues at school, but something tells me there is more to this story. Why, for instance, is John living with his (abusive) GPs, not his parents?

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Every time John leaves (moves out), the GPs call the parents of the places he lives at and tells the parents 'stories' of John's transgressions. Most of the parents then tell John to leave, and his GPs then ask him to come home.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Then, there's the GPs. They probably resent having John live there. Whatever the dynamics, I agree this is a toxic environment.

[quote]
took the trash out of the trashcan and poured it on the bed, found some dog poop, put it on the bed, added all his clothes- clean and dirty.... and then told John his room was messy.

[/quote]
No one should be treated this way, regardless of why he is there.</p>

<p>But, what to do with it? Nothing! This is not your problem, and you probably don't know all the details. I suggest you talk with John about why you think it's an unhealthy place...giving both sides of what you see, along with suggestions for John to initiate a conversation to better understand, but let John handle it. Maybe, he can correct his own missteps, but trying to "control" someone else other than yourself is impossible.</p>

<p>We have some personal experience with this. DD's friend was being abused (hit) by her father. We decided to offer our home to her. I told her I would help her fix up our guest bedroom however she wanted it, help her move, etc. She turned us down because her dad could "really be an awesome guy sometimes." I chose not to call CPS because I knew of a situation where a CPS note was left on the door of a family on a Friday afternoon and it made the situation hellishly worse over the weekend.</p>

<p>Anyway, DD's friend's Dad kept abusing, she wouldn't move in with us but did finally go to a school counselor who of course has to report it. CPS made contact with the family, explained the laws, and DD told me the Dad really did stop hitting her. I wished I had reported it earlier.</p>

<p>I would call this a definite case of emotional abuse. Maybe a CPS visit to John's GPs would be a good thing......</p>

<p>Limabeans makes excellent points. However, I would seriously consider opening my home in some situations. We've done it under other circumstances. A while back family friends moved across the world right when their daughter started college. She lived with us on breaks, summers, etc. for the couple of years they were gone. The big thing, in my opinion, is that this kid is 18. You are not legally responsible, you're just helping him through a transition period. It's a lot different than taking responsibility for a minor. However, there may be issues here beyond what you have disclosed. We considered taking in a young family member at one time who was having major issues and decided against it. We were not equipped to deal with those issues and we had a significantly younger child in the house whom we did not feel we could expose to certain things.</p>

<p>Would CPS even get involved in a situation involving a legal adult (since the son's friend is 18)?</p>

<p>No, CPS would not get involved. Of course, the police could get involved if there was physical abuse or other types of behavior where they can arrest someone. But he's an adult. He doesn't have to live there. But he obviously does need somewhere to go to if he's not financially independent.</p>

<p>I think doing nothing is not a good idea, when you know that abuse is going on. If you decide against offering him a place to stay, maybe you can find something else that would be useful. It must be very hard for young people who are being abused (emotionally or physically) to be left to solve things on their own. Most adults wouldn't have the skills to cope; it's hard to see how a kid would know how to handle it.</p>

<p>We had a friend's daughter stay with us for awhile in her sophomore year of high school - the parents were separating and the kid needed to be elsewhere while the situation was volatile. It was a bit of extra work to drive her around, but it was still a great experience and I came to feel like she was an extra kid of mine, even though she has two perfectly good parents.</p>

<p>If the brother is younger (under 18) I would call CPS and report that there appears to be abuse in the home. The abuse does not have to be directed at the under 18 for CPS to get involved in a situation like this and anyway it is a form of emotional abuse of both children to treat the two children as the good/bad seed.</p>

<p>I would also pull John aside and tell him that you and H think he has a good plan, to graduate early and join the military, that you think that he could be very successful at this and that you understand that his life with his grandparents is not ideal, but that you want him to know that if he needs help or a safe place, that he can come to you. I would let him know that you think he is worth supporting and will do what you can, but at the same time recognize that he is 18, he has been at this a while and he has to make decisions that he can live with over time. Offer your support, but let him make the decisions of what that support will be.</p>