Teenager in Crisis - what can/should we do?


Dear all, I would really appreciate your input and prayers.

We are married with 3 young children (age 9 and under). In our extended family there is a young man (I think he is 14) who is having very serious problems. He was adopted into the family after being fostered for a year from the age of 4. His birth family were very abusive and neglected him very seriously. He was adopted by my MIL with his younger sister. My FIL had left and married another woman before this and they received an annulment. I mention this only to explain that I think my MIL was feeling lost and needed a role when she decided to adopt her new children. However, it has always been very hard work and somewhat overwhelming for her at a time when most MILs are enjoying their grandchildren.

This young man never had any serious behavioral problems but has always struggled at school because he has memory problems and never valued himself very highly so would lose motivation. Recently things have got very serious, he has been hanging out with another young boy who is currently in and out of teenage detention centers and has been arrested on numerous occasions. They have been running away, staying away for days at a time, breaking into their parents homes to get food and belongings etc.

Currently the “friend” is back in detention. We are all very concerned for our relative, let’s call him “Paul”. My MIL never really gave him consistent discipline and she moved about 4 or 5 times in the last 10 years. We have never lived nearby and currently are in Europe while they are in the US.

I really want to help Paul. I would like him to come here and live with us but I’m not sure A) Would that be safe for our young children? B) Would DH even agree? I think not.

We all think we need to get him away from his current environment but my MIL does not have the money for a boarding school or other treatment center.

We could afford to send him to a school over here (if I could find a Catholic boarding school that would accept him, mostly due to his lack of academic ability). Although we could afford to help again I seriously doubt if DH would be willing to, even though Paul is technically his brother.

I don’t want to see this boy ends up in prison or something equally terrible. And I think he suffers from a lack of attention, love and formation. He also has not had a father figure in his life at all. My MIL has done her best but is exhausted.

What would you consider our responsibilities to this young man? Do you have any other ideas of what we could do to help? Please pray for him and for all his extended family.



I would take a question like this to a Catholic professional - Dr Ray Gurendi is all that AND the adoptive father of several children.


You could call in to his radio programs on EWTN or Ave Maria Radio or Immaculate Heart Radio (google will get you to where you can listen on line to these broadcasts).

If you are looking for a Catholic boy’s boarding school, I would suggest Subiaco subi.org/


Thankyou Gage AR. The school you suggest looks great, unfortunately it is $20,00 a year to board (cheaper than I have seen at many other Catholic boarding schools however). Please pray that my husband will be open to helping “Paul” financially, I haven’t discussed it with him yet but I hate to think we just stand by while this young man’s life implodes :frowning: . I am praying fervently, thank you so much for joining me.


Hello Kindness.What a lovely caring person you are.
I have great empathy with you for this young man.Is it possible to get financial support from adoption services? Have you talked your feelings over with your husband?
I think a good place to start is chatting to your husband,tell him how very worried you are and how would he feel in his shoes.Then see how he feels about letting him come stay with you for a bit?
If none of this works I would suggest getting Social Services involved.Get an assessment of need done.Perhaps a social worker could be assigned to help him and MIL.
What a good heart you have.Your family are blessed to have you.


Often a person needs to reach rock bottom before they strike a realization, the only effective thing to do at this point is to pray.

You may want to reach out to him, and offer him whatever you can, but do not give “advice”, he’s not going to want to hear it.


For an adult, maybe - - - to let a 14 year old “hit rock bottom” is child neglect at best and child abuse at worst.


Don't know enough about this sort of thing to suggest anything useful, but will keep this teenager in my prayers.

Here is a prayer now:

Remember oh most Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence I fly unto you, oh virgin of virgins my mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. Oh mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Many blessings to you.


Coming from you this is not surprising, you’re the type that seems to do the preaching from rooftop bit even if no one wants to hear it. Once again you’re playing the armchair analyst, with nothing practically useful, as usual.

As far as I know, this thread is concerned with what they can do, the child is not theirs, so there’s not a whole lot they can do, and I did state they should offer a helping hand, and so did someone else, so that’s a start.


Might I suggest that you refrain from uncharitable ad hominem attacks? It’s not the best way to be taken seriously, particularly as an extremely new member.


My adopted son has somewhat similar difficulties, and has been diagnosed with Attachment disorder.
If this teenager was neglected & adopted at any early age, he may also suffer from attachment disorder. Your MIL might want to get counseling from someone familiar with adoption issues. What I see happening with my son is, ON TOP of normal adolescent issues which heaven knows are difficult enough, he tries to push us away, thus proving to himself that everyone will abandon him in the end and he's right not to love anyone.
My response to this is to love him anyway, but to remain firm and not tolerate bad behavior. That is much easier to say than to do.
Counselling has helped us a lot. Calling Dr Guarendi would be good, but he can't deal with a complicated matter in five minutes on the radio, so will probably recommend a counsellor in his mother's locality, which adoption services should pay for.


Thank you all for responding, it means a lot to know that others care. Yes Viki63 I think both the children had/have attachment issues and through the years they have seen counselors that as you say were paid by adoptive services. My MIL moved out of the state where the children were adopted however and now I’m not sure if they qualify for those services any longer.

I also believe that it is important to not give up on young people and I know at one point “Paul” was talking of suicide so I don’t think a “wait and see, hands off” approach is appropriate. I’m not sure what his High School counselor suggested once he approached her/him with suicidal thoughts.

I’m also not sure if coming to us would be a good idea on reflection because as much as I love my husband he doesn’t really do any discipline with the children, so I’m not sure how that would play out with a teenage boy. Although I do think “Paul” really looks up to and respects my dh and I have always got on well with “Paul”.

You’re right that there is a lot going on in this situation and my MIL has been very erratic in her response over the years. My DH visited about 2 months ago, before it got really serious and he said they were having screaming matches (MIL and Paul) and Paul would listen to really dark, aggressive hard rock at full volume, watch TV all night and ignore his mother except to swear at her. I asked my DH what he did, did he go down and talk to Paul? My dh’s response was that it was between them and he didn’t want to get involved! I think Paul was desperate for my husbands attention but my husband just stayed detached.

Maybe there is nothing to do but pray. My SIL and BIL tried to help over the years but my MIL had different ideas on discipline (or lack thereof) and so in the end they had to back off for they own sanity.

I just think a calmer and less volatile environment would help as right now MIL is blaming Paul for everything and they seem to roll from one drama to the next. Up until recently the drama was mostly of my MILs making.

Please, please pray!


[quote="Kindness, post:11, topic:177788"]

! I think Paul was desperate for my husbands attention but my husband just stayed detached.

I just think a calmer and less volatile environment would help as right now MIL is blaming Paul for everything and they seem to roll from one drama to the next. Up until recently the drama was mostly of my MILs making.


That is a heartbreaking situation. When you explain the problems, it does seem as if it might be better for Paul to stay with you for awhile. We've frequently thought of sending our son to stay with an uncle, but it has never gotten quite bad enough.
But it won't work unless your husband is willing to provide some limits. A woman would have a much harder time disciplining a male teen than a man. I suspect that your husband will be willing to do so if Paul comes to stay with you, but of course you will have to discuss it with him. And make it clear to all that Paul will have to be a good example to the younger children. He may rise to the occasion -- my son is great with little kids.
God bless.


I agree and I think it would be a good idea to offer a “HOLIDAY” or refuge to the boy even if only for a short time.Then he will feel people really care about him.
I have given my sister a break every now and then with her children.She is a single mother of 4 kids.She suffers depression and physical disability.Every now and then there is a crisis with one of her twin 13yr olds and one of them comes to stay with us and it diffuses the situation,gives both of them a break.
Good luck Kindness and God bless
a prayer for the young lad

Our Father who art in heaven
hallowed be thy name
thy kingdom come
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven
give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgvie those who trespass against us
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil


This may well have already been done, but has "Paul" been tested for attention deficit disorder? I have a brother who, though good-hearted, was a huge problem during his teen years, with some similar behaviors, and was likely a poster child for ADHD, though that was never mentioned at the time. His son has been diagnosed, and exhibits all the same disruptive and self-destructive tendencies. (Ironically my brother, and all of us in our family, were adopted, as well.)

God bless.


Have you talked to your husband about this? Would he be open to inviting Paul to live with you for a short period of time? Say 6 months? Maybe even a short break from his current situation can change things.


I have adopted daughters with reactive attachment disorder. Please do not event think about moving this young man in your home with younger children. I know you want to help, but I think prayers are your best bet. It is likely that even if he had been adopted into the perfect situation (two parents) he would still be having problems--so don't be too hard on your MIL. She has done a good thing by trying to help Paul. It would take me days to write down all the problems that we have had with our girls. Keep him away from your children.


I would tend to agree. If you were going to “take him in” YOUR CHILDREN need to be in a position to defend and look out for themselves - at this stage they are much to young for either with a 14 year old boy with such easily identifiable problems (what other problems are you not aware of?).

If another family or friend had a family with children close to or older to “mentor” this teenager it would be a much better situation or a couple with NO CHILDREN might be the best situation. A father figure would be very beneficial too. At this stage your MIL is in over her head and she needs help but you are not is position to take control of the situation.


I agree with these last two posters. It is a difficult situation but perhaps there are other options besides you. My feeling is that you have to consider that your primary commitment and vocation is maintaining the integrity of your own little family. It seems selfish, but it is the duty we moms take on. And we have to be very sure our children will not be harmed by such changes.


I don’t know if it’s possible but is respite care available through Social Services?So MIL and the young man get a break away from each other?


Thank you everyone. Well right now I am waiting to hear some more from my MIL so not sure how Paul is doing. My husband has been working hard and everyone has had the flu so we have postponed talking about what we should do until we heard more from MIL.

Mary168 and SamH, I think you're right. Please pray, pray, pray that we can find a way to give support and help in some form that would truly help Paul and his mom and sister.

I apologize if I seemed hard on my MIL.

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