Adulting someone else's kids is hard

There’s going to be a lot added to this for detail, but this starts as a placeholder.

TL;DR version: Mrs. Hoffman had a best friend. She died, left a set of twins age 19 who are a month older than our twins. Their dad died ~7 years ago. Twins are in college at the moment.

Among other things, in the last ~2 months we’ve learned:

  • The kids lived in an utter shithole. [We knew they weren’t in a “clean” house but didn’t realize the depth of things.] Like, our first house was ~700 square feet; they were in a place about that size, with 9 cats and 2 dogs, and neither parent cleaned but the kids couldn’t clean because “that’s not your job.”
  • For virtually all their lives, the kids have lived in utter shitholes. [Definitely not known]
  • Their stepfather is a clueless idiot [Mrs. H and I noted when we met him] who I would put money on not being able to pass the entrance exam to pre-K. As in, he exhibits Dunning-Kruger on everything.
  • They had no money. As in, we had to crowdsource to raise funds to do a simple cremation with no ceremony - which, we got at half price.
  • Mom stole money from the twins. [Not realized.] Like, took their money they earned from working to “pay bills” and got control of their education accounts and looted much of them. Potentially to the tune of $20K. Each. Among other stuff.
  • Mom stole money from the twins. Worth mentioning a 2nd time, because they “paid for auto insurance” which she then pocketed, which meant they drove around for at least 18 months (probably longer) without auto insurance.
  • Stepfather stole money from the twins. [Not realized.] As in, they were paying his bills though he was working. Occasionally. When he wasn’t getting fired from a job and then “leaving to go to work” to cover for the fact he’d been fired, and then “they had problems with payroll” which explained why he wasn’t getting paid. Even at places like Wal-Mart and Target. Because, you know, major retailers regularly screw up payroll.
  • Mom and stepfather suckered money from others under the guise of “helping the twins.” [Amount unknown, probably in the thousands of dollars.]
  • Mom was under federal investigation for fraud relating to the kids’ social security numbers. [We’re trying to get info on with the help of someone who knew the mom and twins when they lived in another state]

So, with the help of two other sets of parents - parents of friends of the twins - we’re getting these two away from their stepfather and helping them rebuild their lives. Which, for everything they’ve been through, they could easily be in a really bad spot right now but they’re in college and doing well and have their heads screwed on pretty well, even if they’re working on therapy to deal with the loss of their mom.

This thread may document elaborations of all of this and whatever else we learn, and serve as my place to vent as needed.


Sounds like they were parentified by their “parents” with some financial abuse on the side.

I am amazed that they sound like functioning adults.

Agree they will probably need a lot of therapy as they may have CPTSD.


I was expecting something a bit lighter when I opened this. JFC they sound like horrible people.

1 Like

Wait is their mom your wife’s best friend?

Was. She’s dead, so … :skull_and_crossbones:

How that friendship came to be: Mrs. H and … let’s call her Karen. Years ago they were part of an internet message board of parents of twins. Karen lived near where we used to live, twins were nearly the same age. They talk, get to know each other a little, meet up because hey, we’ve got twins, let’s share experiences and all that happens like it would here. Friendship evolves from there.

Karen had MS. Like, legit MS and not bullshit “I’m going to use this to grift off people” MS. So the first time Mrs. H goes to visit Karen’s house, it apparently stank and wasn’t clean but Karen “was having a rough go of things, John [twins’ dad] just left, blah blah blah” and Mrs. H didn’t put 2 and 2 together just then. Every other visit between them was outdoors or out in some business so you didn’t smell how bad things were. That, and Karen had learned how to mask odors for the public-facing view when she needed.

1 Like

Where is evil stepdad now? :angry:

In the filth of his mom and dad’s basement. Which, it probably wasn’t filthy before he moved in, but it is now because he’s just as bad as she was.

Whew. OK.

I grew up in filth, squalor, one step above a hoarder’s house, and we did everything we could to keep people from knowing about it. We were pretty successful. But the trauma my siblings and I carry because of that is HUGE. Some of my siblings have been able to learn the skill of keeping a home, some have not. Teaching them some basic skills around what to clean and how often could be hugely helpful to them.

How is their credit? I’m worried mom might have stolen their identifies beyond the extent known and stated here and completely ruined their credit; the sooner they find out about that and can start working to remediate it, the better. This is a HUGE PROBLEM for some kids, most of them don’t even realize how bad it is until they need to get a loan.

Are they living independently now, or with you or the other friends?

Can they cook? Do they have bank accounts? Can they budget?

This is tragic, and thank you for stepping up to help them out. I’m sorry they’re having so much dumped on them all at once. It’s bad enough losing a parent, but then finding out their parent was a very different person who contributed to ruining their lives…that is a load. I’m glad they’re in therapy, please encourage them to keep going long-term, this is going to take years to unravel, I think.

Please, please…if you’re able, give help these kids have a base camp somewhere. I see this a lot in foster care after kids age out; they have nowhere to call home, nowhere to go for holidays, or summers. They’re adults, but still kids, and knowing there is somewhere to go, someone to turn to in a crisis or just on a bad day, that can change a person’s life.


The good thing is that they’re pretty determined they are not going to be like their mom. Easier said than done, but just having that mindset is a huge first step. But on top of the things you mention, just basic stuff like “what do I do when ______” - things their mom always decided that we take for granted - are the kind of things we all have to help them learn.

We - the three sets of parents involved - all recognized that was a "have to do now thing.
Surprisingly, they only had one credit card each. They had no idea they had one; they recall their mom saying “sign this” and they did, and … it was mom, she wouldn’t do anything to hurt them, right? And yes, the card was maxed out and charged off and they had no knowledge of anything on it. We’ll deal with that as things come up, but we’re going to claim fraud - which, it very arguably was - when (likely not if) someone goes to collect.

They also didn’t realize they had student loans. :slightly_smiling_face: They just thought everything had been magically paid for by mom. :slightly_smiling_face: Twin B didn’t know she owed $3,000 at school because mom didn’t pay off a balance and repeatedly bounced checks. That got taken care of by one of their dad’s brothers who holds some money set aside for their education.

They’re living with one of their friends’ parents.

They can probably cook some, mostly because I’m sure they had to cook at home because their mom and stepdad didn’t.

They have Chime, so … not really. That’s on our to-do list the next two days. They want Mrs. H and/or I on their account so we can help with stuff and we can get to the account from pretty much wherever we’re likely to be or they’re likely to be.

Arguably, no - they can’t budget. What they do know, they certainly didn’t learn from their mom. Twin A is definitely better at it, recognizes the need to save money. Probably has gone the other way with things, I had Domino’s this weekend and now I feel really bad that I spent $12 on 2 pizzas. Twin B probably doesn’t have that concept. There’s a lot of I’ll figure it out which is going to become a banned phrase. But all of that is going to be a group effort.

Agreed. And it’s going to be tough this weekend, because it’s Parents Weekend and they’re I really miss my mom, I love her so much, I wish she was here for this and we’re yeah, we wish she was here so we could take turns beating her ass beyond a bloddy pulp. Granted, I think they have an idea their mom did wrong just based on what we learned the week after their mom died, but I know they have no idea the depth to which it runs.

And they really are lucky that they’ve got a group of people - we call it the Twins Tribe - that have pulled together for them, everyone’s on the same page about doing what’s best for the kids, and we can talk and come to a consensus decision and everyone respects each other. They could have easily landed anywhere else, in a really bad situation, in full despair.


What’s “got control of their education accounts and looted much of them”? What kind of education accounts? Is that student loans, 529s, something else?

Something not mentioned but might be worth looking into - tax returns. If they were providing more than half of their support, but their mom filed them as dependents, (or maybe just didn’t file anything at all) there may be a small chance of getting money for the kids filing amended tax returns for the past few years. (That assumes they were making so little money that they are owed a refund). I guess you have to balance that with audit possibilities and effort involved.

Where are dad’s brothers in this? It sounds like they are financially responsible enough to give money for their education. Not sure why they didn’t step in before unless, like you, they were completely unaware. It might be something to be careful about when doing financial things on behalf of the kids, sometimes family steps in later and claims they should be in charge.

Ugh - good luck with everything! And it’s great for the kids that they have caring adults stepping up. :heart:


I don’t know all of the details. (There’s an extensive list of things we’re trying to untangle.) Apparently one of their uncles (dad’s brothers) had a 529 for them; either he passed control of it to her or she submitted expenses that were grossly inflated / submitted falsified expenses. Either way, what was $25K each turned into $3K each before they went to college.

I think their uncles they were unaware by and large. Again, there’s lots of details we’re piecing together.

Re: tax returns - getting a copy of theirs from last year is on our to-do list. Our concern is if she falsified information, then had them sign; they had no idea what they were signing for but it’s their signature, they’re legally responsible. Not a “today” problem though.

Ordinarily that would be a very small chance, at least federally. Now that there’s no exemption, if their investment income is trivial then there’s not much difference to being a dependent or not.

For 2022 the standard deduction for a single person is $12,950. For a dependent it’s their earned income plus $400 up to a cap of $12,950. If their investment income is $400 or less then it makes no difference on the federal return for 2022 other than possibly for the Lifetime Learning Credit.

Possibly they could get stimulus money (Rebate Recovery Credit) on their 2020 and 2021 tax returns though if they qualified to claim themselves though. Their Rebate Recovery Credit is NOT reduced for any stimulus money already paid to mom.

Note that time is running out to amend 2020. You’ve got until April 15, 2024. An additional year for 2021.

Note that they are too young to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Earned Income Credit (they got rid of the age restriction on EIC for 2021 only… but only for people not enrolled in college.)

If they actually owe tax they might get some benefit from the Lifetime Learning Credit. It’s nonrefundable though. And not that large, but it might provide small relief.

Being a dependent also might matter on a state tax return. Feel free to PM if/when you want to get into specifics.

If they’re 19 now, claiming that they weren’t dependents when they were 16 & 17 is dicey. The value of the home that mom provided counts as support.

Yeah, I mostly had the stimulus money in mind when writing my comment. It doesn’t make up for 22K *2 disappearing though. Maybe their young age and the home counting as support makes this a no starter though.

Incidentally are minors really responsible for their signatures? (That would only apply for 17 and younger though) And nowadays they may not have even had to sign things; at least in my household, I don’t recall my husband physically signing anything. We might have electronically checked a box together but electronic checkboxes are easily falsified. Anyway, you may not need to say that the previous return was fraudulent to file an amended return.

I assume you’re responsible for your signature starting on your 18th birthday, but IANAL.

1 Like

I don’t think I’ve put names to kids. Let’s do that: there’s m and M.

This past week, we got all of m and M’s stuff out of storage. Their clothes, their personal stuff, whatever we knew they might need or thought “you know what, they should decide if they want it or not.” That got condensed into about 6 large totes. That’s after we took 2 1/2 hours to go through a storage locker, throw out things like pillows and blankets that were soiled with cat piss, throw out other stuff that was clearly trash, and condense it down to fit into a 2022 Nissan Pathfinder with the middle and back seats folded down, packed to the frame, and then 2 large totes and 2 large boxes strapped down to a cargo rack.

And it stunk. Like, we had windows down the entire trip back, got back to her sister’s farm and unloaded everything, left it sit out overnight and took showers and scrubbed to make sure we didn’t have any of that smell. Like, the day after we were throwing stuff that we knew we couldn’t salvage because there was no way to get rid of the stench. Like, it took over $60 at the laundromat to wash clothes using OxyClean, Borax, whatever to get rid of most of the smell so we could run it all again at her sister’s house to get rid of the rest of it, and still ended up throwing some clothes out.

I know who didn’t pack things. I’m just not sure who did. Either it was Skippy the Wonder Dipfuck, or his friends, or someone else. Or all of them. Or the landlord who had to be furious at the shitty condition of the house. There was a bag where everything in the bathroom had just been thrown in “as is” which meant open aerosol cans sprayed all over everything. There was obvious trash thrown into boxes. There were half-full water bottles and empty pill bottles carefully wrapped in 3 or 4 sheets of packing paper, while obvious fragile stuff was thrown in randomly. One box would be bursting at the seams, another would be half full. And Skippy was I did a great job, didn’t I! and *the packers did a great job, didn’t they!" and I was in a rush, I did the best I could and it was everything I could do to not say yeah, well it fucking sucked because this is a shitty ass job.

m had taken what they wanted, what was left didn’t smell too bad because they kept their room closed so animals couldn’t go on. M had left a handful of things behind, but was careful to keep anything they really wanted on their bed (which they had elevated) so pets couldn’t get on it. I’m sure they’re both going to be excited to go through stuff in a few weeks when they go to the place they’re staying (“adopted” home) and they find stuff they forgot about and stuff they wanted to keep and stuff they were sure was just gone forever. And, none of it will smell and trigger reminders of the shithole they’d had to live in.

But, aside from perhaps one or two things which we didn’t find, we have all their stuff out of storage. It’s another link we’ve severed between them and their stepfather, another reason they can ignore him.

Story about this weekend and visiting m and M to come later.


I’m realizing that I almost certainly work with one of the other parents involved in this story. I don’t think it’s you, however.

Are the other parents involved with insurance?

(The guy helping has told us quite a bit and enough details line up. He hasn’t been shy about telling us the situation.)

1 Like

Giving away a few details on location: if you’re in the middle part of the country, say near a major city where there’s a very prominent marker along the river that is kind of considered the dividing line for the two halves of the U.S., then there’s a chance you might be in the know.

But yes, one of the parents is helping with insurance because it’s something they (she) is familiar with.

“Prominent marker,” eh? (arching eyebrows)