Monday, January 30, 2012

Answer: We Don't Lend Money to Birth Family

As I'm sure you gathered from Sunday's question, we were asked to loan one of Danielle's birth family members some money.

We said no.

Even before all the comments came in giving me good reasons to support that answer, I had considered quite a few on my own:
  • We had loaned this person a much smaller amount of money in the past, and it was never repaid.
  • I didn't want to set up a precedent establishing us as the bank of Abba v'Eema.
  • We didn't want to get sucked into what was surely going to be a bunch of early morning drama.
Even though there were plenty of good reasons for no, I have to admit to feeling pretty crappy about it.  The details we were told Sunday morning were somewhat hazy, and it sounded like this birth family member had really been stranded, and had gotten into a bad situation as a result.  As the story was told to us, the person in question was facing a pretty horrible consequence, all for a lack of planning aforethought and a relatively small (though not insignificant) number of dollars.

I felt like a real skunk.

Later Sunday night, we heard from Danielle's family member, and it seems everything turned out okay. The immediate need for the money has been deferred a few days, so this person will be able to cover the bill.  As long as the money is paid by this deadline, nothing terrible will happen.

So the situation resolved itself in a way that didn't require our wallet.  That made me happy.

Once we heard more of what lead up to the crisis, it made me even happier that we hadn't decided to proceed with the loan.  Initially, it sounded like a situation created by poor planning and being left stranded by a friend.  After hearing more details, we realized that the situation was both of those things, but was a result of a plan that shouldn't have been executed in the first place.

Now the story we've been told reminds me a lot of the things Danielle tells us.  The plot twists and turns, the details change, and we are left confused and with more questions than we had in the beginning.  It feels like the foundation of the tale is built upon the shifting sands of the Sahara Desert.  In the end, we don't know if we have the truth or not, though it probably doesn't matter.

This video clip from the movie Meet the Robinsons pretty well sums up the situation in its entirety:


What makes this situation feel a lot more complicated is the fact that the person involved isn't an older relative who should know better.  This person is a young adult who has gone through most, if not all, of the negative experiences Danielle has.  Unfortunately, this person was bounced through the foster care system, and has received every disadvantage that could possibly come from it.  Unlike Danielle, this relative wasn't "lucky" enough to find a "forever family."

Now I put the words "lucky" and "forever family" in quotes, because I don't believe that kids are lucky when they are adopted.  Neither do I believe that an adopted family is necessarily a forever family, because the phrase completely discounts the existence of the birth family, and it isn't always true.  If a child is adopted and returns of her own volition to her biological family, was the adoptive family a forever family?  I'd argue not.

But I digress.  The real issue that makes this so difficult is being in the strange position of being parents to one child, but not to another.  It's very odd to be parents to one kid, who is closely related to a young adult, but having had no input into the care, custody, or control of that young adult.

So we find ourselves in the odd position of being related, yet not, to someone who we don't really know.  It's clear they could use some help, but we have no legal or emotional ties.  We don't want our child to witness this person's imploding life, but we don't feel comfortable providing financial aid or housing to someone who isn't really part of our family.

We care, but it just feels complicated.

I've of course asked myself the question, "would I help my niece, nephew or child in a similar circumstance?"  The answer is probably not, because the entire situation could have been avoided with a little planning ahead.

Maybe the real answer is that the situation needed to unfold as it did to be a lesson in natural consequences.  It certainly provides a strong lesson in, if you don't plan ahead and you don't have a solid backup plan, then bad things most certainly will happen.

I hate to watch someone fall on their face.  I also realize that it is important to have boundaries, and just because someone asks me to loan them money to get out of a jam, doesn't mean it is a good idea.

Even so, it didn't entirely stop me from feeling bad.

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