Is It Fair to Charge My Brother Rent?

Updated on August 16, 2013
L.M. asks from Citrus Heights, CA
34 answers

Hey Mama's,
I am puzzling over what is the fair thing do to. Mind sharing your opinion and helping me to settle a debate with my hubby?
Here is the situation....

My brother, who is 33 lives with my husband and me, and our two boys. Brother is somewhat developmentally disabled, ultimately he could live on his own but really does better with supervision.
He does not work and collects social security disability. He has lived with us 2 years, and he is not paying any rent. He does help us by watching my 4 year old on mondays and fridays, empties the trash and does the dishes. During the school year, he also helps my older son get started on his homework.

My husband wants to charge him a small amount of rent, say $200 a month. Im not sure that is reasonable, but he has lived with us quite a while rent free and it would be helpful to our budget.
I am seeking your advice- what should I do, what is fair?

Edited to add:
Thanks for the thoughtful responses for far. I know I didnt provide all of the details, but thought I would add that my brother did live on his own in an apartment. He receives about $1180 a month from ssi. He did ok in the apartment, but wanted to save money so we said he could live with us and watch my son 5 days a week.
What has changed? He is now only watching my son 2 days a week.
My hubby feels that my brother should pay some rent based on that change.
What do you think??
Thank you!!

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answers from Chicago on

I don't understand why he's NOT contributing.

He's only "somewhat" disabled, so why isn't he working? If he's able to watch a child 5 days a week, he's able to have more responsibilities. I'm sorry, just because someone wants to save money, doesn't mean they should get to live for free.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Rent probably not. However, I would have him contribute financially I. Some way. Even if you just put it away for him. Does he save money or spend it on junk. If he is responsible, may e have him pay the electric bill every other month or something like that. Something towards food.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My view is that you can EITHER charge him rent OR require that he help around the house etc... he's either a tenant (who can do what he wants) OR a family member.

"Rent" is a set monthly amount for access to his private space... it seems strange to charge him that NOW when he's been living with you as a family member up to now. That, however, does not mean he can't be making a financial contribution.

Why not have him contribute some of his income by having him take over a couple of bills (cable/internet maybe?), or handle the grocery shopping once a month or something?

Hope this helps,

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Here's my thoughts. I have over 13 years in the field.

He's disabled and only gets a smallish check each month. I think you need to check the legality of what you're thinking about doing. If you are his payee it could be seen as you keeping his money away from him. It could also be seen as too much if you kept that much.

I understand you could really use the money to help out. I also know how hard it is to manage things with a situation like this.

He is already helping and babysitting. Do you pay him to babysit and do chores? I imagine not. In a group home he would not have chores to do that were required. He would have some chores but if he choose to not do them he would not get into trouble. Housing is not dependent on whether he does this or not. It's a thing they do to be helpful and help their neighbors have a healthier living area.

In a group home he would have goals such as learning about money, managing his money. Of course completely doing that is a long long long long way down the road and probably not something one would be able to do wonderfully. He'd have friends and staff around all the time. They'd go to the movies, out to eat at least once per week, go to the grocery store, learn about shopping and finding their way around inside if they got lost from the group.

They'd have goals to learn how to do their own laundry, wash their own bodies, brush their teeth, shave, get dressed each day in clean clothes, they'd have a lot of things they'd be working on each and every day.

So if you're not providing these things for him are you just letting him sit around all day and not improving his skills? What does he do all day?

In a sheltered workshop he'd participate in filling contracts, he'd eat his lunch with his friends and do activities after hours, he'd go to dances and parties, they would help him learn skills to move up at his job to something better.

He'd be doing all this and living on his own and paying rent. They'd be providing staff, housing, food, medical assistance for his meds, they would be doing a lot for him all the time.

I have a niece that moved from her mom's home into a shared living situation. She held a full time job, was able to get a taxi to and from work when she needed a ride, go to the store and get her own groceries (it was across the street), and she was able to live without staff.

Her mom came by one day and caught the daughter and the boyfriend having sex. Come to find out the daughter and the boyfriend had been having a sexual relationship for years.

This woman was in her late 20's or early 30's. She had an IQ in the high high high 60's. 70 is the line between low IQ and low normal IQ. So if she had one or two more points on her IQ she wouldn't qualify for any SSDI or other disability income.

There is a man that lives in one of the group homes I was manager of. He works full time in a grocery store, he walks to work, gets himself home, stocks the shelves, run an occasional register, and is a right hand to the owners. His IQ is very similar to my nieces.

His mother is very aged. She takes his entire check from DDSI and his pay check and cashes them. She gives him a $10 allowance each week. She keeps the rest. She does pay his $300 month rent at the home. She keeps the rest of his money and no one can get her to say what she does with it.

She'll only say "He doesn't need it, he's retarded you know". That's a situation that isn't good, this man supports himself and is quite able to manage money and do anything he needs to do.

He won't have any freedom until his mother passes away. He won't have a penny of money she has I bet but once she's gone he'll be able to have his money in his own checking account and won't have anyone to tell him what he can and cannot do. If he wants to have a payee or a team to help him decide what to do he can ask for help. Many do because they don't want their family to take all their stuff.

So what I'm saying is to please consider a group home, shared living, supported living, well supported living might only be in Oklahoma, and try to make it where he can learn skills today that will help him in the future. One day you won't be there anymore and he'll be in a group home or shared living home then and won't have you to do stuff for him.

Let him attend a sheltered workshop so he can have friends and be out of the house all day working.

Help him to gain independence and live life to the fullest.

Should you charge him rent? Sure. Should it be $200 per month? If his check is only $250 per month then no, that's too much and you should be held accountable for what happened to him income.

If he makes $2000 per month then $200 is a good percent of that income to pay for rent for a developmentally disabled person where no professional training is occurring.

Should he be helping out during the week? It sounds like he's doing that already.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

A few questions:

1. How much is he getting from SSI?
2. How much is he putting into savings? Though his medical is likely covered by Medicare, and he gets SSI each month, having money in savings for extraneous purchases and needs is always a good idea...and he should have a savings in some form....even if it's in a jar.
3. How much does he need to budget for his own bills and necessities?
4. Will the amount that remains after he puts money into savings and pays for his bills and necessities allow for $200 in rent?

I think it is perfectly fair to ask him to help to offset the cost of his living in your home. Just be certain that you are being reasonable.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

He has successfully lived on his own and gets $1180 a month?

Of course he should pay you rent. Why should he get to save money and not you?.

I see many people below think he shouldn't pay, but if he has been able to live on his own, he is not severely disabled. Therefore I don't see why he can't contribute financially to the family, which is also his family.

What is he "saving" his money for that's so special?

IMO, even slightly developmentally disabled people don't need to be enabled and entitled.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

It is more than reasonable and it is legal. If he were living in a group home or renting his own apartment he would have to pay rent. The check he receives is for helping with his living expenses and he;s more than likely eligible for other benefits as well. His medical should be covered by Medicaid and /or Medicare and he;s probably eligible for food stamps,altho his food would have to be kept separeate from your family's. He is very blessed to have a sister/family that has let him live there so far, rent free. Where else could he live for the amount you want to charge him?
Do you fill out the paperwork to keep his benefits going? Rent would be part of the living expenses accounted for when justifying where his check goes. In a group home he would never see his check, although he may get an allowance, sort of speak, to do things mentioned in a previous post. He may also be eligible to work even if it is part time ,without endangering any loss of benefits. Check with Social Security for the specifics. I've also worked with the disabled and he is much better off with you than in a group home. They aren't always what they appear to be, not saying they are ALL bad, but, they are some places that are not as honest or caring as family often is. On the other hand, there are families that aren't always honest or caring either and they use their loved ones check for their own purposes. EXPLOITING THE DISABLED IS ILLEGAL, but this doesn't appear to be the case.
Best of luck and God Bless, C. S.

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answers from San Francisco on

As far as I am concerned, any adult living in anyone's home should be paying rent. Period. $200 per month is very reasonable. He certainly could not live anywhere else for that minimal amount (especially if that includes, as I assume it does, food, and laundry privileges).

BTW, what's your brother saving his money for? Seems to me that after 2 years of rent-free living, he should have quite a bit saved.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Mindy T really hit the nail on the head for this question. What is the purpose of his SSI checks?

This really has nothing to do with whether he helps watch the children or not. He is not working, so maybe that gives him some personal satisfaction & sense of worth.

And it's not possible to 'put a price' on his help. If he weren't doing that, you'd likely be expecting him to contribute more to the household chores. Maybe watching the kids is one of his 'chores.

What you need to consider is that part (not all) of his SSI should be helping to contribute to his added expense in your household, the same as if he were living on his own, or in a group home.

You, your husband & your brother should talk about his long-term goals. If he is never able to work again, & will be living off the SSI from now on, how will he be providing for himself 10-20 years from now?

Consulting with a family financial planner might help also - not someone who is interested in YOUR long-term financial outlook, but in your brother's. Determine how to help him be able to provide for himself going forward.

And maybe that means that he stays with you long-term, & contributes in helping the household, but keeps his money invested to pay for his care later on (medical/housing in the event that his condition deteriorates or his ability to live with you changes for whatever reason).

If it is financially burdensome for you to have him live with you, taking some money from the SSI, giving him some for spending, & helping him to invest/save the rest sounds like a solid, caring plan.

No one here can define 'financially burdensome' for your family. If you are well off, & it is not impactful for him to be a part of your family expenses, then allowing him to continue as you are currently structured is also an option.

I suggest you & your husband first discuss your finances, & what you think about your brother's long-term place in your household, & then meet with him to discuss. Finally, with a family financial planner.

Good luck! T.

ETA: I just want to clarify that if your brother pays money to the household, it should not be considered "rent". Rent implies that they are paying you a compensation for a roof over their head & perhaps utilities. Instead, I would try to find a legal way to make it a contribution to the family expenses. Whether he is disabled or not, many families have a "shared expense" arrangement. Unlike a roommate situation, it tends to allow for an asymetrical distribution of financial responsibility - in other words, if 3 sisters live in the same house together, they may not all chip in the same $$ amount, based on what each one makes, & how they contribute to the household in other ways.

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answers from Houston on

With the information you've provided, no.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My sister was developmentally disabled as well (profoundly) and she lived in a group home. Her social security went to pay for her care there.
Your brother's social security is meant to cover his living expenses. While I would not charge "rent" - you didn't need to get a room just for him, that money should cover his food, his medical appointments, his health/grooming necessities, his clothing, his haircuts, in addition to his entertainment/spending. If you are covering these expenses for him, I feel that it would be appropriate for his social security disability to go toward those things.

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answers from Chicago on

Sure, charge him a reasonable amount of rent based on his income and then pay him $10 an hour for babysitting.

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answers from Dallas on

When I stayed with my grandmother, I paid her $100/month (this was 20 years ago). Becaused I used her water and ate her food, basically. If your brother is old enough to "get" it and wants to contribute to the bills, and if it doesn't have a negative impact on him, then I would think it's fine. But this should be for an "offset the cost of his living there - water/food/electricity" and not a "get some money thing. Consider how much you would have to pay if he were not babysitting, etc., and go from there. A sitter generally costs at least $10/hour - so maybe based on how much he babysits, $100 might be good.

Figure things out, then have a family meeting - don't just surprise him.

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answers from Chicago on

Are you hurting for money? If so, I'd say it would be fair to charge him a bit. If not, I'd not look to someone whose only income is SSI to help financially more than he already is. Childcare 2 days a week is a HUGE plus. Maybe you could get him to step up some more on other chores, like cleaning a bathroom or doing the floors.

Your brother's disability is not going away, so it isn't like he's ever going to have huge earning potential to be able to contribute to a retirement plan. He's going to need his money as he ages.

After your edit: Thank you for the clarification on the specifics of the situation. It does seem that since his responsibilities have decreased and his SSI seems ample, he should be able to contribute a modest amount. He is still saving money by living with you.

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answers from Washington DC on


While it seems fair - he does seem to be pulling his weight. He is helping around the house, etc. He's been there 2 years - why now start paying rent? Why wasn't it set up from the beginning?

I'm sure his SS disability check is not enough for him to live on his own. Can you check with the SS office to see if that legal that he pay you rent? Are you considered his legal guardian or is he claimed as a dependent of yours?

If he wasn't living with you - who would he be living with? Have you talked with your brother about this?

I would need to know WHY after two years, you would want to start charging him rent and why what he is doing to help out isn't enough.

I do understand it's another adult mouth to feed - so the help with the rising grocery prices would be a good thing....water, electricity, etc. I am torn...he's a legal adult - but really not self-sufficient enough to live on his own.

Sorry. I'm on the fence. I agree with rent but have questions...

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answers from Norfolk on

You should think that the baby sitting he does is helping your budget.
He's providing a service for which you would otherwise have to pay for from anywhere else.
He's not exclusively living in your house and playing video games all day every day.
If you charge him rent, then pay him for the baby sitting.
How does he spend his disability check?
Does he buy food, clothes, what ever else he needs?
How would taking rent out from that affect what he has to buy for himself?
If you're starting to view his disability check as a source of income, then it's probably time he find another living situation.
Was the plan that he was going to live with you forever or was it temporary?
There are some semi supervised half way houses where he would do very well.

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answers from Boston on

I think it would be reasonable to figure out how much having an extra person in your home increases your expenses. I can tell you that when my SD moved in (when she was 13) our gas, grocery and utility costs increased by almost $300 a month. You sort of think "well I'm cooking and using water and electricity anyway, what's setting one more plate or one more shower or one more car ride a day?" and the answer is...a lot! So if he's not contributing to utilities or groceries at all, he should be. On the other hand, calculate the value of the childcare that he provides. Then net the two out and figure out whether or not having him in your house literally costs you or saves you money.

If childcare vs. groceries/utilities is pretty even, then consider what he gets for income from SSDI and what he's doing with it. If it's all just sitting in the bank or he's able to spend on luxuries while you're struggling to make ends meet, then I think $25-50 a week in rent is reasonable. When I was a single mom, my son and I lived with my parents and I paid $200 a month in rent plus paid for some groceries, paid all of my own expenses (cell phone, baby food, diapers, bills, etc.) and was still able to pay down my debt and save for an apartment, but what is reasonable is relative to what his income and expenses are.

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answers from Muncie on

I would ask what utilities does he use? Does he have his own computer to use? A phone? Does he drive?

If any of these are a "Yes" then he might be asked to pay for these or at least perhaps a portion of the shared utility bills each month. I wouldn't tell your brother that it was "rent", just a set amount to help cover bills. Which is what the money will be used for.

How much is his "income"? Base what you ask him to help out with in that.

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answers from Denver on

My thoughts:
What has changed? How will this affect your brother?
This sounds like a permanent situation with family. Can he work? If not, how will the $200 a month affect him? Honestly, that seems like a large sum to me given what you've described.

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answers from St. Louis on

If you don't really want to charge him rent charge him his expenses. A fair bit of math involved but him living there increases your costs. Obviously you would be paying for your home regardless but every utility sans the phone and cable went up because he is there. Figure that out, charge that. Then the rent itself can be paid for by how he helps you out.

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answers from New York on

I agree with Queen below. Amp up his responsibilities a bit and be sure that he is being responsible with his money (saving and even investing well) so that when you are gone or if your situation changes, he will be ok.

And good for you for taking on this responsibility!

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answers from Dover on

I think the answer really depends on a lot of unknowns (unknown to us that is). What amount does he receive form ssd? What would his expense be if he lived on his own? Is he able to work some and still receive ssd? If so, does he? What has changed since he moved in that you now want to charge rent? What would your expense be if he didn't watch your 4 year old twice a week? The trash and dishes seems like a normal "contributing to the household" type of chore. Getting your older son started on homework is a "helping out family" type of help.

I think $200 a month may be a bit much considering he regular helps with childcare...depending on the amount of his income.

Without knowing these things, my thoughts are:

1. You are helping him out by letting him live with you and he is helping you by helping with babysitting. No rent is needed.
2. He is a contributing family member so he does a few household chores.
3. He's being a good uncle and helping get homework started.
4. He should use some of him income to provide for his necessities: some of his own groceries (as it makes sense that meals are joint, he can provide a few things for the family meals as well), laundry detergents, and personal care products....all of which he can use to take care of himself and his laundry (or assist with household laundry if loads are done together).
5. By #4, it will lessen the load on your budget while allowing him to also have some independence.

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answers from Washington DC on

At first my thought was YES, however, I kind of think no.

What has changed that he needs to start paying rent? He should have been paying when he moved in two years ago. In turn, you should not expect him to do any housework at all, any babysitting, anything he doesn't want to do. If he is paying rent, he is your tenant and should not be looked at as "a part of the family that helps" - if that makes sense.

While I agree he should be paying rent or a bill or something, I don't understand why you need to start now. Do you also realize that 2 days of babysitting per week would probably cost you guys at least $400 a month? He is helping your older one with homework - that's a huge task for someone to take on. It really sounds like he is pulling his fair share.

Now if either of my brothers/sisters wanted to live with me, I would let them do it rent free for no more than 6 months to get on their feet and get their own place. If it was for any more than that or they were not working on getting themselves straight, I would absolutely charge rent...I'd "rent" them my basement and charge about 1/3 of my mortgage. They all know this - and this is why they haven't asked to live with me. My parents let my siblings live rent free when they need it - even though I think it's wrong. We are all grown, the baby is going to be 25 in November and my older sister will be 33 in March.

So I rambled, sorry...but no, I do not think you should charge him rent.

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answers from Philadelphia on

You are very kind to help your brother out like this. Is your brother paying for his own food and toiletries? If not, I think he should be along with a small portion of the water and electic bill. If you weren't nice enough to open your home to him he would be spending a lot more. Also, I don't think your husband and children should sacrifice if he has the money.
I am just curious why your brother is not working. Seems to me if he is able, it would be the best thing for him not only financially, but socially and emotionally. I can not imagine it is good for your self esteem to be a free loader. (Not calling your brother a free loader because he is contributing by providing child care etc. but I hope you understand what I am trying to say.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

My grown daughter lives with me. I don't charge her rent but I do require that she pay half the utilities, half the car insurance (her car is on my policy), buy her own groceries and gas AND do her fair share of housework.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Cheryl B has an excellent point. What is he saving his money for and after two years of living rent free he should have more than $12,000 saved. If he was paying $500 a month for the apartment he was living in plus utilities he should have a large savings account. If he has little or no savings then you need to charge him rent and put some, not all, of it into a trust account for his later years when he will need expensive medical care.

My MIL lived in Citrus Heights for several years and I doubt he could find an apartment to rent for $500 per month.

If you put some of the rent into a fund to go towards your children's college, that would be good too.

Good luck to you and yours.

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answers from Chicago on

This is tough, because of the unknowns.

To answer the question. anyone over age 18 should pay rent.. with that said. the amount to vary.

1. He is not extra dead weight in your home.. He helps you.. add up how much you would have to pay somone for the things he does.
2. What does he do with his money? does he pay for his own food? does he have a car & car insurance.

I would say, 10% of what he brings home should go for rent. so if he brings in 500 a month.. $50.00 would be rent. but you have to look and see .. If he were to be paid for watching your son.. 8 hrs a day.. you would be looking at $80 a day to pay someone.. the going rate is about $10 an hr.. he watches him 8 days a month, $80 *8 is $640.. so in essence he is saving you that amount of money every month. Becaue if he was not living with you you would have to pay that amount.. (assuming it is 8 hr.. if longer itis more if shorter is is less).

So ... you need to think long and hard. :)

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answers from Lansing on

I think you have every right to charge him if you wanted to.

However, if it was me, no I wouldn't charge him.

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answers from Dallas on

I think so. In order for things to be somewhat balanced for your family, I think he needs to contribute.

What has changed in two years is your brother has been there two yrs with no rent. That builds some resentment. Your H is nice enough to provide a place within your home for your brother, your brother does have a little income and that's what you do with your income, live.

It makes sense to me.

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answers from Wichita Falls on

A lot of it will depend on your long term goals. Do you want him to live independently? Do you plan on him living with you for the rest of your life (or his)? What does he spend his money on?

Assuming he isn't going to be with you for the rest of his life, I would set up a very simple budget and explain it to him. Include the cost of his living with you and what he would earn by helping you. I would then charge him the difference, setting aside a portion of the money to assist him when he no longer is living with you. If you plan on him living with you for the rest of your life, I would use the money set aside for life insurance on the breadwinner of the house so that if he outlives you, there is money to provide assistance for him.

PS There is a company in our area that is setup to employ the disabled (mentally and physically). They do various real jobs and match abilities with opportunities, they even have a pickup and drop off at several group homes. If he wants to be independent or semi independent, look and see if there something similar in your area.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Seems completely fair. I think it would help him to become more independent and responsible for his own life.

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answers from Miami on

It is more than reasonable.



answers from Anchorage on

My Aunt moved in with my grandparents to help care for them. She also was on disability. She did cooking and cleaning around the house. When my grandmother wanted to start charging her rent the rest of the family was furious and spoke up to point out that if anything they should have been paying my aunt to be there.

Your brother is no longer sitting 5 days a week, only two, but he does other chores around the house. Seems like a trade off.

I guess my question would be how much does he help? Does he cook at all? How much cleaning does he do? How much would it cost you or inconvenience you if he moved out next month and you no longer had him to help out around the house and care for your child those two days? Does he help buy food? All these things need to be taken into consideration.



answers from Washington DC on

You and your DH can sit down with your brother and say that you very much appreciate that he watches your son 2 days a week. I would lay it out as including your brother as an adult vs being punitive. Is there a bill that could be "his", as a contributing adult? Just one thing that might help you out and not be too much and be his responsibility?

My SS pays a nominal amount of rent and if I trusted him to pay it on time, I would ask him to pay a bill, like the water bill. Something where his presence changes the amount due and where it would make a difference to us if he paid it. I think sometimes family just needs to pitch in. Maybe your brother would respond well to being asked as an adult and give him his choice of ways to contribute.

Does he also buy any of his own groceries or take care of his own transportation, etc? If he does those things, then bear in mind (or have your DH bear in mind) that he isn't then asking you and DH for that money. He is doing it on his own.

I also agree that you and DH and Brother need to discuss long term goals. What does everybody want and how can that be made to happen? If he does better with the family than in a group home and everyone is OK with him staying, then that is a different goal than being ready to launch again at some point.

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