Dear Amy: I recently learned that my teenage child has befriended a teen whose father is a convicted criminal. The father is listed on the sex offender database for child pornography and offenses against minors. He also served time for burglary.

I discovered this background when my child received a package in the mail with an out-of-state return address that I didn't recognize.

This information came up when I searched the address on the package.

Apparently, the friend is visiting the father, and decided to mail my child a small gift. The friend lives with their mother locally. I have not met the friend or the mother.

I have mixed feelings about this relationship.

Certainly, the actions of the father are not the fault of the child. I do not believe my child is in immediate danger because the father lives in a different state. However, any connection to this family makes me uncomfortable.

I was direct and truthful with my child about this. I advised caution, but as you know, teenagers are not always sensible. How do you recommend I handle this situation?

Amy says: You should make every effort to meet this friend, and to meet the friend's mother. I wonder about the wisdom of sending a child to stay with a parent who has this sort of criminal record, and so you should try to determine if what you have uncovered is true.

Yes, once you determine the facts, be frank with your teen, and be especially frank about any contact between your teen and this father, online or otherwise. Express an open attitude toward the friendship between the two teens because you are right — none of this is the child's fault.

Do not push so hard that your teen is tempted to hide anything or becomes defensive about the friendship.

A painful truth

Dear Amy: As part of a very challenging career change, I've been volunteering with a tiny nonprofit that has a great mission but is also dysfunctional. It is now on life support.

I've stuck around because I'm learning useful skills that I can put on my résumé, or at least deploy in ways that might benefit me.

I ultimately gave several months' notice, with a promise to tackle whatever they needed me to, within reason. Recently, I agreed to do one last project — a project designed to take stock of where we are and, possibly, save us from having to disband. This is also a project I could grow in.

I've been venting to my mother about all my misadventures with the organization (especially the founder, who I'm convinced is its main problem), and my mother thinks that the organization is so obviously done for that I'm not doing anyone any favors by participating in the project.

Mom thinks I should sit the founder down and say, "Look, this is over. All the evidence says that it's over. I want to follow through on my commitment, but I honestly think we're delaying the inevitable."

Aside from job-search and résumé strategy, what do you think is the most ethical way forward?

Amy says: If the purpose of your final project is to take stock and see if the organization can be saved, then you should fulfill your commitment and honestly present your findings to the founder (and the board, if there is one). It sounds as if your mother is urging you to pull the plug early, in order to save you from the time commitment and frustration of sinking with the ship, or from seeing your recommendations disregarded.

If you truly believe your mother's take is correct — that the ship will sink, regardless — then you should be honest with your assessment sooner rather than later. This would give the organization an opportunity to try to change and possibly survive.

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