Jump directly to the Content

My Nephew's Abandoned

I'm concerned about my three-year-old nephew, who was raised for 18 months by his divorced mother. My sister then left him with his remarried father and new wife while she received intense mental-health care. His father now feels he can no longer handle his son because he's causing problems with his marriage. I don't feel my sister's strong enough to raise my nephew, but I'm not sure what to do.

A. Your nephew's blessed to have you in his life! In unstable family situations, often one extended family member—such as you—makes the difference in a child having a good shot at life.

Talk to your ex-brother-in-law about undergoing family therapy before he makes such a drastic change. Rejecting a child if he/she doesn't behave won't serve well either his son or the children he and his new wife might have together. If finances are a concern, consider helping them out with the cost of counseling, if possible. Choose a Christian licensed marriage and family therapist with experience working with young children.

Continue to be a constant in your nephew's life regardless of his living arrangements. At his age, weekly or more frequent contact is ideal. Offer to care for him one to two times a week at your house, if you can. It's natural for your ex-brother-in-law and his wife to feel overwhelmed. This respite will provide them with some much-needed couple time—and help develop a deeper bond between you and your nephew.

Have you ever thought about adopting your nephew? I realize this is a huge consideration, but if you sense neither parent is committed to him, you may want to pray about this option. These disruptions in caregiver stability may well have affected your nephew's emotional attachment to his parents. His current acting-out is a natural response to all the change he's been through. If you pursue adoption, I recommend you request all biological parental rights be terminated. While it's critical to keep both parents in your nephew's life, it's also essential to stop the revolving door of parenting arrangements that he's experienced up to now.

God's blessings as you go forward!

Karen L. Maudlin, Psy.D., is the mother of two and a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in marriage and family therapy. She is the author of Sticks and Stones (W).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters