Ask AF: Handling Requests for Financial Supportby Judy Stigger, LCSW
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Q: When we see our two-year-old son's birthmother, she frequently asks for money. We often end up giving her some, as we know she's parenting two children, but this puts us in an uncomfortable situation that we hadn't anticipated. Can you offer any advice?
A: Providing cash assistance to your son's birthmother is a slippery slope, as you've discovered. Your compassion is evident. However, your charge is to raise your son, not to rescue his birth family. If you adopted through an agency, it could be helpful to get its representatives involved. Your agency could say, "We suggest that no money change hands," giving you a reason to stop the practice, and making them the "bad guy." Overall, helping her access social services may lead to better long-term results.
If you are considering continuing to offer small amounts of money, set guidelines. For example, offer funds for specific purposes consistent with your family's values: buy school supplies or purchase a membership in a local Boys & Girls Club. Explain that you value your relationship and don't want to come to dread these visits, so you ask that she not request money beyond what you've offered. If she asks anyway, say no. If you are considering a significant amount of money, please consult with your attorney about the implications and distribution. Then you can enjoy visits and surprise her kids with holiday or birthday gifts.
-- Judy Stigger, LCSW
Content expert for Adoption Learning Partners' "Tough Starts Matter" series
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