DEAR ABBY: My sister "Carole's" husband died a year ago, and her oldest daughter passed away four months later. Carole now has her daughter's two oldest children, ages 10 and 14.
Carole has been going out with men she meets on the Internet, drinking and partying on weekends and neglecting the kids. The 10-year-old had been receiving psychological help since before her mom died and was on medication, but Carole has dropped all of this help for the child. The girl had been molested by a relative years ago, and now with her mother gone, she's not moving forward in school or in life.
Some of us are willing to take the children from her. She seems not to care what happens to them. She devotes all her attention to the next guy she can be with. She has left the kids alone all night when she was spending the night with men. I'm not supposed to know this, but my adult niece found out from the kids. What can our family do to bring Carole back to earth and help these kids? -- DEEPLY CONCERNED IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR DEEPLY CONCERNED: Bringing Carole back to earth and helping the kids may be two separate issues -- and you may not be able to accomplish both. It is possible that Carole would be open to others in the family taking in the children if you approach her as a group and "sympathetically" offer her that option. Explain that you all can see the stress she's under trying to find herself as a widow and grieving mother.
It appears that she is in need of counseling -- if she's open to it. Make it plain that her children would be welcome to stay with you on a temporary or permanent basis. If she agrees, fine. However, if she doesn't, contact Childhelp USA, which can give you information about agencies that can help. Contact them by logging onto www.childhelpusa.org or calling toll-free: 1-800-422-4453.