DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have always had a big hand in helping our daughter "Lauren" raise her three kids, ages 5, 10 and 15. She has moved in with us and out many times. About a year ago, she decided she would not do it again. Instead, she moved in with a boyfriend.
The kids tried it there but told us, "We don't want to live there." They don't feel safe because there are so many strangers and so many parties there. My daughter decided to let the kids live full time with us, and she now visits us only when it's convenient for her. If we ask her to come stay with them, she will agree but not show up. She also promises the world to her kids and doesn't follow through. She always has a ridiculous excuse as to why.
The 15-year-old has lived here more often than not. Lauren says I make it too comfortable for them here, and I should tell them they can't live here. She has tried to force them to leave, but both of the older ones flat-out refuse. The oldest said if they can't live here, they will go to a foster home because "We are not living with our mom, ever!"
Lauren does have full custody. She drops off the youngest after spending a couple of hours with her, promising she'll be back "in a little bit," but we may not see her for three to five days. Are we wrong for giving them a good, safe home? Should we tell them they have to go live with their mother? -- BACK AND FORTH IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR BACK AND FORTH: Of course you are not wrong! Your grandchildren are lucky to have such stable and loving grandparents in their lives. I see no reason why you should tell those kids they aren't welcome in your home, which is their refuge. Your daughter has proven repeatedly that she isn't able to take care of her children.
Consider discussing with a family law attorney how to gain legal custody of all of them. If the older kids tell a judge about the conditions at their mother's house and that they feel unsafe there, custody may be granted.