BCAInfoSys From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Posted (8 years 1 month 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 905 times:
Hey guys... it's not often that I would put forth such a personal situation like this. But I'm genuinely torn and I need your advice on a situation that has become a major issue in my family.
My oldest sister is married and has 2 children. She is married to a great guy and they have provided a very loving, stable, middle-class home for their kids. She's a cost analyst for a major cell phone company and he's a diesel mechanic for a local construction firm. They were content with 2 and didn't have any desire to have any more. Well her husband's brother has been the exact antithesis of my brother-in-law. He's bounced from job to job, and freakishly unstable relationship to the next. Well unfortunately one of these "relationships" resulted in a child, Cammie.
Cammie is about 4 1/2 years old now and is at heart a sweet child, albeit with some behavioral problems due to her psychotic mother (released from jail recently, and then committed to a mental health facility), and then her father (my brother in law's brother), relapsed on his lingering meth problems.
Long story short, my sister and her husband have gained long-term custody of this child and feel that they have no other option but to permanently adopt her and give her the home her parents can't.
It has been difficult for us as I am quite close to my niece and nephew (4 year-old boy and 2 year-old girl), and I have seen some behavior transfers from Cammie that are less then positive. But at the same time, we've all recognized that this is the best shot this little girl will ever have for a normal life. Although there may be some lingering effects, if she can move in with my sister's family permanently, this will be her best shot for breaking the cycle of drug abuse and mental illness.
The struggle resides in the fact that she has so completely latched herself onto my family in such a short amount of time. I call my young nephew and niece several times a week while I'm awhile at college to remain close to them, and every time I call, she insists on talking to me, even though our relationship has been very limited. I've babysat on several occasions and we're comfortable with each other, but not close. But in the last week or two that she has been in the custody of my sister and brother-in-law, she has completely integrated herself into our family. She refers to my parents as "Nana and Papa", I'm "Uncle Steve", etc. And while this would normally be very endearing, we're worried about the long-term repercussions this could have on this sweet young girl. What if she finds stability and happiness, only to have her domestic situation change if her father ever comes back into the picture (if he ever cleans up again)? No matter how much we love and try to integrate this child, I'm sure there will be occasions where we may resent her because she's not "ours"? I guess I'm just worried about hurting this child by unconsciously treating her differently then my own flesh and blood.
So my questions to you are: what are the best things I can be doing for her? What can I do to help her be happy and healthy while not distorting her perception on her domestic situation? What happens if we completely integrate her and love her as our own, only to have her ripped away through legal proceedings if her mother or father challenges custody?
I'm doing the very best I can, but I'm just a little apprehensive about the best ways to help this young child grow and be a part of our intensely-close extended family?
Thanks for reading and all your thoughts and support.
ScarletHarlot From Canada, joined Jul 2003, 4673 posts, RR: 57 Reply 1, posted (8 years 1 month 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 888 times:
Holy cows Stevie. I am not sure what to tell you, but want to commend you and your family for doing what's best for Cammie.
Is she in any kind of therapy? It sounds a bit worrisome that she has attached herself to your family so quickly.
I don't even want to contemplate what would happen if her father ever wanted to seek custody. I knew a lady at our Atlanta office who adopted a boy at birth, the maternal brother of a girl they had already adopted. After like a year the father sought custody of the boy. It took many months to settle but the dad did get custody. It was heartbreaking. At least the boy was young enough that he was not fully aware of what was going on.
Very best wishes with this situation. I do encourage your family to seek counselling for Cammie and maybe your sister and brother in law, too.
BCAInfoSys From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 2, posted (8 years 1 month 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 886 times:
Thanks April, you're the best. It's a tough situation. But honestly, I don't think we really have a choice. I think we have to do our best to treat her as "one of our own" and give her everything we can. She's a kid who's in desperate need of a stable family, and I think we're the best ones to give it to her. We're one of the closest extended families I've ever heard of, as Nana and Papa (Grandma and Grandpa) see the kids everyday, and the kids see their aunts and uncles 3-5 times a week. We're just so closely tied in like that. So that's why although I'm not directly involved, I really am to an extent.
This is a major thing for my family. But I know that we have to give her every shot she's never had. And so as difficult as the transition may be, we'll just have to do it. I just need advice on the best way to go about it.
I mean, today on the phone she was telling me all about the barbies she wanted me to give her for christmas. She's just a sweet girl that's had the shaft for so long...
AR1300 From Argentina, joined Feb 2005, 1740 posts, RR: 3 Reply 3, posted (8 years 1 month 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 878 times:
I would try to integrate her into the family and to make her a full member of it.
Surely you'll need some professional advice and counceling, cause psicological problems are common in this kinda cases.
So she slowly will realize everything you do for her, and will grow up in the most ''normal'' way she could, and you won't regret that.
My 2 cents.
Sudden From Sweden, joined Jul 2001, 4128 posts, RR: 6 Reply 5, posted (8 years 1 month 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 847 times:
A child needs stability and routines, and I am more then confident that she have seen that your sister have this in her family.
A child is also somewhat smarter then we adults, in the sense of that if they see something they like, they just go and get it.
In this case that would be love, attention, interaction, and no to forget rules!
If a child do not have any limits and borders set up, they are not happy.
Quoting BCAInfoSys (Thread starter): every time I call, she insists on talking to me, even though our relationship has been very limited.
This is not totally true, for her!
She sees what you have to offer the other children, and by nature she wants to have this warm and tenderness herself. She needs it.
Quoting BCAInfoSys (Thread starter): What if she finds stability and happiness, only to have her domestic situation change if her father ever comes back into the picture
That would, most likely, not happen over a long period of time. I do not know the guy, and am not judging him either, but from what you wrote above I can state that if he comes to the point when he wants his daughter back, he would then have to prove himself worthy to the social office in regards to income as well as what plans he has for his daughters future.
ALSO, by that time, the girl would then be of an age that they would actually ask her what she would like. To stay with your sister, or go back to daddy.
And believe me, she do love her dad, but if she can get all the things I wrote above, she have already made that choice.
DesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7719 posts, RR: 17 Reply 7, posted (8 years 1 month 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 807 times:
Definately a tough situation, even moreso at such a young an impressionable age.
The best that you and your family can do is take her in and love her like she is one of your own... afterall she is still family (a blood relative even). So be uncle Stevie to her as well, treat her like you would your other niece and nephew. It is up to your sister and brother-in-law to seek out the appropriate support and help that they need as a family. And do what they need to do, legally, to ensure this little girl will have a stable home for as long as she needs.
Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
Pope From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 9, posted (8 years 1 month 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 805 times:
The only way you can ensure that the father won't come back into the picture is by severing his legal rights and adopting the child.
For all the BS that gets spewed about traditional families, the one thing that gets overlooked is that the basis of any family is unconditional love from parent to child. The rest is just background noise.
Love this kid and you'll be well on to helping get out of this cycle.
Flyingbabydoc From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 10, posted (8 years 1 month 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 802 times:
Quoting ScarletHarlot (Reply 4): Yes - absolutely. She needs your family desperately. You might be her only hope for a normal childhood.
Quoting Pope (Reply 9): r all the BS that gets spewed about traditional families, the one thing that gets overlooked is that the basis of any family is unconditional love from parent to child. The rest is just background noise.
Love this kid and you'll be well on to helping get out of this cycle.
I completely agree with them. We deal with child abuse and neglect cases, and in most of those the judges are more than willing to transfer the legal rights to loving, caring relatives. This should be enough to block any attempts from the biological parents. I would emphatically encourage you to do your best for this child, since it is almost a bit late already in terms of long-term damages for her development. I think your sister and husband are doing a wonderful thing and, even if someone comes along in the future (i.e. the father or the mother), they have given the child a basis to build upon for the rest of her life.
TNboy From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 1131 posts, RR: 20 Reply 11, posted (8 years 1 month 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 796 times:
Try not to confuse the two main issues here - but make sure you deal with them both.
The most important is the welfare of the poor child. The secondary, but still important one, is the potential rights of the biological parent(s).
Right now she needs love and affection and a secure sense of belonging, and you seem to have that one pretty much under control. If the family has long-term custody, and proceeds with adoption, that would seem to tie up the legalities of parenting. It may not stop the biological parent/s at some future time seeking access, but it will certainly place limitations on what they can do.
It would be wise to get some professional advice on just how to talk to the little girl about her real parents (or whether to do so at all). This is a really sensitive area, and you will need expert counselling I would imagine.
But just remember the priorities. 1) The child; 2) The Child; 3) The Child; 4) The Other Stuff.
Amen- and boundaries, as someone else mentioned. Counseling can help certainly, but just being in a good environment, being able to learn from and grow with other positive family members can do wonders.
Quoting TNboy (Reply 11): But just remember the priorities. 1) The child; 2) The Child; 3) The Child; 4) The Other Stuff.
Totally right. With that said, you almost have to worry about #4 concurrently--in terms of that "legal stuff" especially. These custody things piss me off and break my heart because too often biological parents are given an advantage in clear cases of neglect and/or abuse.
Hopefully that won't be the case for Cammie.
Good luck Steve- please keep us posted and offer my heartiest thanks for your family doing an amazingly unselfish thing that can literally make the difference in someone's life.
Just a slight correction. I have no relation to her. I have no blood relation to her as she is the result of my brother-in-law's brother and his psychotic bitch girlfriend.
But other then that, thanks guys. I really appreciate all the support. She's a kid who needs hope and I think that maybe we can give her some.
Quoting TNboy (Reply 11): It would be wise to get some professional advice on just how to talk to the little girl about her real parents (or whether to do so at all). This is a really sensitive area, and you will need expert counselling I would imagine.
I just need to reconcile my own personal feelings, and then find the best ways to appropriately help her deal with her situation. Because as TNboy said, there will come a time when she is going to have questions and when this may come some issues in the teenage years for example.
So it looks like I'm going barbie shopping... something I know nothing about. But I'm sure with a little girl like this, I'll learn all the intricacies in no time flat.
Flyingbabydoc From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 14, posted (8 years 1 month 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 767 times:
Quoting BCAInfoSys (Reply 13): just need to reconcile my own personal feelings, and then find the best ways to appropriately help her deal with her situation. Because as TNboy said, there will come a time when she is going to have questions and when this may come some issues in the teenage years for example.
So it looks like I'm going barbie shopping... something I know nothing about. But I'm sure with a little girl like this, I'll learn all the intricacies in no time flat
That is a good point - you obviously had some thoughts about it before (maybe why did your sister had to put up with someone else's problems?) but I am sure you will enjoy this new niece of yours. And Barbie shopping may come in handy when you have your own daugther!
Ctbarnes From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 3491 posts, RR: 51 Reply 15, posted (8 years 1 month 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 757 times:
Man, Steve! I have to say I admire you all for agreeing to do this. What everyone else has said is spot on. You and they are the best hope for Cammie right now.
In some ways it's not surprising she is behaving the way she is. Since the home life of her biological parents was somewhat less than good, my guess is she never quite bonded with them, and so much needs to be loved that she took to your sister's loving family right away.
The other thing is that Children are increadibly resilliant. I can't say how the behavioral problems will work themselves out, but there are people out there who can provide assistance both for Cammy and the family so as to deal with a relatively new person in the family mix and help prevent the spillover to their other two kids.
I'm no family lawyer, but the best defense against the father coming back on the scene is a formal adoption. Past behavior suggests he is incapable of caring for her, and he may even see sense and relinquish custody perminently, and it sounds as if you have Child Protective Services on your side on this one too.
As for you, I think I can understand how you feel. Please correct me if I'm wrong but I sense you are being very guarded around her both because of what it may do to her, and also, perhaps a bit, what it might do to you if you start to become close to her. You don't want her to get hurt, and I don't think you want to become hurt yourself, and that's perfectly understandable given the situation. I really think the best thing you can do is to be the best "Uncle Steve" you can be towards her. Kids are very perceptive and know when someone is being standoffish. Let her worm her way into your heart, and deal with tomorrow when it arises. You all sound like a very close family and that indeed is something to admire. If the unthinkable happens, you won't have to deal with it alone.
My prayers both for you and your family that this all works out. What you all are doing is increadibly generous. Also, please feel free to contact me "off board" if you want to talk more.
The customer isn't a moron, she is your wife -David Ogilvy
TNboy From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 1131 posts, RR: 20 Reply 16, posted (8 years 1 month 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 723 times:
Ctbarnes is right - kids are extremely perceptive, and she will certainly notice if you are not sincere. I can understand the way you feel - that maybe she isn't really 'family'. But remember, the moment that your sister and her husband made the decision, she became family. Just accept their decision and show that you are supportive. Remember, if you are reticent, then you will be hurting your sister and her husband as well as the little girl. In years to come you won't regret showing her love and acceptance at this really critical time in her life.