Concerned Step-Mom

dranoaJune 6, 2009


Background information:

My husband moved moved to America from England 6 years ago to live with me. He has a 12 year old daughter who resides with her mother back in the UK. This past year, my husbands ex allowed his daughter to travel to America to stay with us, previously, both my husband and I would make arrangements to spend time with his daughter.

Sadly our involvement with his daughter is little more then a checkbook and a chat buddy online for most the year. This summer we aren't going to have the pleasure of having his daughter come stay with us because she has landed a lead role in a summer production. So we are hoping to have her stay with us this Christmas.

The situation:

This past week, we were asked to provide financial support to send his daughter on an exchange program to Germany, just a few months prior to her trip to the States. This sounded exciting, and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity for his daughter to meet other children, be exposed to different cultures and practice her German which she is currently learning.

After asking for more details, the cost is minimal. It might deter from how much we spend on her at Christmas time, but if this is something she'd like to do, it's definitely worth considering.

The concern:

The house my husband's ex wife maintains is a mess. She has medical issues, and is also a packrat. It took years before she would allow me into the house, due to it's condition being too embarrassing for her. For many years I would stand outside the front door whilst my husband would pick up his daughter when we would pick her up from her mums.

In the foyer, there is a narrow path one has to carefully walk through in order to avoid the newspapers, boxes, and other rubbish piled high all around the house. There are two couches I believe in the livingroom, however, they are typically so buried under objects (I've never stayed long enough nor looked at the mess thoroughly) that there is no seating for company.

The kitchen counter is covered in dirty dishes, the oven doesn't work. Often my step-daughter is having to prepare her own ready meals in the microwave come tea time. And I've not been allowed upstairs to know fully the state of those rooms, however, from what I've gathered, they are even worse.

Instead of cleaning her room, my step-daughter has been allowed to move into her brothers room when he moved out of the house. Her old bed is falling apart, and is not usable.

The question:

Would it be right to encourage my step daughter to become involved in this program, when it would result in a German Exchange student having to live in these conditions as well?

I don't like that my step daughter has to live in these conditions but unfortunately my husband has little rights. Even when we lived in England, the law was in favor of the mother's rights. When I inquired where the student would stay, my step daughter said the child could have her bed and she would sleep on the "comfy" floor. This is when I learned of the state her old bedroom is in. She said it wouldn't be worth cleaning up the room, due to the bed being broken.

But I don't think anyone should be subjected to this living condition, and I feel terrible that I don't want to support her in this, as I believe in the end, it will only lead to embarrassment and drama she might not foresee.

I don't want to be the evil step mother, but I also don't want to subject some innocent German student to such a lifestyle, however brief.

Any advice on how to handle this or what to do would be greatly appreciated.

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The only similiar program I have had contact with is the aupairs, and a local adult employee checks out the host family house. If you have the information, can you go on line and see if they do home screening checks?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 6:59PM
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I am lost a little. If your sd is going on the exchange program then why would you be concerned about an exchange student staying with them??
Just because one child goes to another country as an exchange student does not mean that that childs parents need to be host parents. KWIM?
I have seen host families who have no children. I don't really understand what the program is that she is involved in.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 7:41PM
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The program that is on offer (as it has been explained to me, I've not seen any paperwork) is one in which the English Students are paired with German Students.

They correspond via letters, etc, find a match based on their interests, etc. And then the German student stays in the UK for a week as part of a group of 27 students. And then the 27 English students head to Germany, to stay with the families of the students they were paired with.

Had it been simply sending my SD abroad, I'd be thrilled to send her along. However, I'm afraid she might be faced with an embarrassing circumstance, should the German Student have to stay with her and her mum.

Sorry I hadn't made that clear.

It's not a program I am familiar with personally. And this is only a short term stay.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 7:58PM
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"After asking for more details"? and neither you nore DH know the name of the program? I am not asking you to say it here, but what details did you ask for if you didnt ask for the program's name and/or sponsers? If my child wanted to particpate in an overseas exchange program, the first thing I woudl do is google the name and see if any complaints. I would also ask around, but if this is a UK/German exchange program you might not have any friends or neighbors with experinece with it.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 8:56PM
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The thing is - YOU are not condeming some poor German student to spend a week in BioMum's rathole - SD and BioMum are. And while it's messy and cluttered and would be an embarassment to many, it is what it is, and if it's not a fire hazard or biohazard, then an embarassment is all it is. Your SD knows what her Mum's house is like, and I'm sure it's occured to her that the German girl she's paired with will see her Mum's home and its usual state. If she's willing to face it, say nothing disparaging.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 10:16PM
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I would certainly report it to someone. Talk to the daughter and tell her the truth about how her mother lives. She probably thinks everyone lives like that. The exchange student may take one look and call her rep to come get her.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 10:52PM
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I'ld be just as concerned about my D going off to someone's house, if the organization doesnt check people out. I'ld think SD has seen her friends' homes.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 11:05PM
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LOL I am going to assume you have no children or you would know what "details" actually means. I think you will be able to rest easy after truly learning the details and checking out the program. I expect you to learn that each family undergoes close scrutiny, and home inspections should be a routine part of that. No program, much less no parent, is going to send children into unknown territory. The program has to be responsible for the children's safety. That is the primary concern, I am certain. But, find out the name of the program, call them, and check it out for yourself before asking advice on how to handle a situation you know nothing about. My guess is you will learn your stepdaughter will be rejected for this type of exchange program.

On a different note and a matter of caution, what is known as white slavery or maybe child slavery (in some parts of the world) has become an extremely big business and cause for concern. Children and young women are kidnapped and sold to become sex slaves, and they are captured using schemes that are becoming more elaborate every day. I suggest you check out this program completely and thoroughly. If you don't feel you know the right questions to ask, then inquire here and elsewhere to find out the kind of information you should expect to ascertain from that program/company. For example, if they do not do routine home inspections, I would say no for that reason alone because I'd take it as a flashing red signal they don't have their act together, but it could also bring question of their legitimacy.

I am really glad you asked this question and hope you will take my post in the good nature I intended. I think this can be good practice for you to fine tune your mum radar for when you have children of your own (if you and hubby decide to have children). Taking notes during practice such as this will help you develop a critical path to problem solving - critical path meaning sequenced order of importance to expediently arrive at a conclusion. In other words, the safety of your stepdaughter (and future children) is more important than her embarrassment. Had you begun inquiring of the program with her security and well being at heart, you might never have ended up asking a forum a question like this one. Problem solved by way of a much more significant and less delicate concern.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 1:10AM
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wow, well if the living conditions were so bad I'd assume that you and the father would be more concerned about the actual child of your husband living in the awful conditions for the past 6 years..seems rather strange that a maybe exchange student would inspire such a concern.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 3:30AM
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I agree with nivea. Why not get an agency involved that would force the mom to provide better living conditions for SD? It sounds unhealthy.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 7:25AM
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I agree with sweeby and thermometer on this one.
Its biomom ands sd subjecting this student for one week to this it will be more of an embarassment and maybe wake up for sd to realize , houses like this are not the norm. And i would agree with thermometers caution...alot of schemes out there You must check more thoroughly and be sure your sd is safe.
I have a friend who is a packrat...i dint' know he was until my friend told me .....its awful. They have everything...envelopes, papers...everything. Clutter , clutter clutter...and yes..these people know they have a problem and are embarassed..but do nothing about it because they are so overwhelmed.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 9:00AM
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why is it your business how they are going to accommodate German student? If accommodation is bad then she probably end up staying in a different place, whoever organizes the exchange will take care of it. I don't see how is it your business?

I find it stragne that it is OK with your husband that his daughter lives like a pig and yet you are concerned that German student will stay there for a summer. This makes no sense.

also plenty of people have messy or cluterred houses and unless it is hazardous it is really no one else's business. these people live so far away from you, you barely see them or know them.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 12:49PM
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I find it strange that Dad doesnt even know the name of the program - at a minimum.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 1:18PM
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