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beachmama
10-09-2011, 10:35 PM
Hi everyone, I am in the process of making a very tough decision and I am looking for any advice, wisdom, or even just words of encouragement that anyone can give. I apologize for the length. Let me explain…

Recently my older brother passed away in a boating accident. He had 2 children. A son 14, who lives with his mother, and a daughter 12 who lived with him. LONG story short, my niece is currently living with my mother who has had custody of her for the last 6 or 7 years. (It was a mutual agreement that she could live with her dad as long as he kept his life together) After the accident she moved back in with my mom. She does not need to, nor does she want to go back to her mom. My niece has had a hard life, bouncing back and forth between, parents, grandparents, etc. Well, my husband, and I have been discussing the option of either adopting her or gaining full custody of her. Depending on her wishes. She has already expressed a desire to live with us. We have discussed this with my parents and they too believe it would be very good for her. Here lies my dilemma. I am 27 and my husband is 28. We have three boys of our own. 6, 5 and 6 mon. and while we both love my niece like she is one of our own, neither one of us has any experience raising a teenage girl. We are financially stable enough for another child so that is not an issue, and I used to teach junior high, so I do have experience with this age group but not from a home perspective.

We are aware that there will be a host of issues to deal with as far as the family structure goes. I just started homeschooling my two older boys, and my niece has also expressed a desire to be homeschooled as well. Im trying to decide if it would be a good idea and if I can even do it. (From a personal perspective, not a legal one.) She wold be moving to a new town, in a completely different situation. I don't know if homeschooling would help her or hinder her. Has anyone dealt with anything at all like this? What did you do? If not thats ok too. Do you have older kids, I could use some advice on that too. Or are we just completely crazy for even considering this? We just really want to do what is best for everyone. Sorry if this sounds confusing. It is. :) Like I said before, I would appreciate any thoughts you might have. I know this is a complicated situation, but sometimes hearing others thoughts helps me to sort out mine. Thanks for listening.

dbmamaz
10-09-2011, 10:54 PM
Wow, what a crazy situation! I can tell you that my daughter turned in to a crazy meanie at 11, and we didnt really get out of that until 17. It turns out some of it was issues she was mad at me about but never told me, and i never figured it out. It was a really, really hard time. But not all girls are that hard! I wonder . . . i mean, it will change the household dynamic a LOT . . . but so much really depends on her. I mean, does she like being around your boys? Is she a maternal type or at least reasonable baby-sitting/playful type? What are the reasons she'd rather be with you than with her grandmother? What is she doing for school right now? While it would be good for her to keep up with freinds, esp in those middle school years, she also might really need some time to focus on mourning, rather than keeping up w school and socail circles. It seems like being at school while trying to come to terms with losing the only parent you were every close to could be an awful lot to deal with. Unless, of course, she has really close, supportive freinds at school.

I am always so impressed when young couples try to take in teen relatives! On my moms group, one took in a much younger husband's brother, but it fell apart eventually when he wouldnt get a job and started drinking too much. Another took in a neice who lived with her for I think 2 years. She never posted about it much, so I suspect it was harder than she expected, but the neice was 18 when she moved there, from a fairly abusive situation. Another wants to move to a bigger house to take in her neice, who's mom - last time I heard, the homeless shelter wouldnt take her because she was a junkie, and rehab wouldnt take her because she was living on the streets . . . she lives with her grandmother - who is racist, the child is mixed race.

anyways, its a lot to think about but i'm sure you'll be there for her as much as you can, either way.

Teri
10-09-2011, 11:11 PM
I think if she has expressed an interest in homeschooling and in the interest of making her feel like one of the family (and not an outsider that is just living there), I would want to give homeschooling a shot.

beachmama
10-09-2011, 11:14 PM
Thanks for the response. In answer to your questions: She is a very sweet lovable girl. My boys ADORE her, and she loves them. Not to say that they don't have their moments. :) She is pretty quiet and a little shy, but I might be a little bias since I am an extreme extrovert. She's is going to a public school out in the country and has a few friends but I don't think they are very good influences. She is a very stable girl considering what she has gone thru. In school she gets good grades but she is struggling in Math. She wants to be involved in activities but because she lives so far from everything it has been really hard on my mom getting her to practices and what not. I think she wants to come live with us because there is not much going for her where they live. My parents are much older and were looking forward to retiring in a few years, not starting over with another teenager. My mom tends to be melodramatic and I don't think she really has a grasp on teenagers anymore. We have all discussed the fact that it might feel more like a family unit for her to live with us rather than just her living with her grandparents. Does that make sense? Im hoping it wont be quite so hard since she is still pretty young. I don't think I could do it if she was 16. but you're right, it is a lot to think about.

Stella M
10-09-2011, 11:26 PM
Firstly, I'm sorry for your brothers death :(

If she comes to you, can you just try homeschooling with her for a while and see how it goes ?

This sounds like a situation where you can't really know what the best thing to do is until you are doing it, kwim ? A situation where flexibility will be your friend.

There are quite a few of us here with teens, so at the very least, you would have a place to recommend curricula etc.

lakshmi
10-09-2011, 11:35 PM
Personal experience on this situation I have none. But, I did have a friend from highschool who adopted her niece. She was more than 14 years older than her niece though, :) The girl benefited from the structure and family more than she did living with her dad.

As far as not having raised a teenage girl, no one has until they get one. lOL.. If she isn't going to live with her mom, then being a part of your family would probably make more sense than living with your mother, much older and retire doesn't compute for me. Much older would be like 70. and that would be too old. But if they are in their mid 50's then that is an okay age to have kid.

But taking her in, I would start thinking about what raising a teenager meant for your boys, and then apply that to your "daughter" which is what she would become. And if you are fully willing to accept her as such then take her in, and raise her as your own. I'd say that if she is shy, work at making her a part of your family first and worry about her friends later. Homeschool her if she is interested.

But for me, this is of course a personal opinion to me, and only me. If the child had any serious mental issues or behavioral issues I wouldn't take her in and put my own kids at risk. Of course with teens there is a risk just because they're teens, but I know that when my normal step-son (who is an only) is around it makes it harder to do what I need to do with the girls. But if he were here he would go to public/private school and not homeschool. Which would create a different dynamic.

Hope this didn't come across as preachy. I do think that it is an awesome thing for you to consider.

beachmama
10-10-2011, 12:03 AM
no, not preachy at all. She does not have any mental or behavioral special needs, but I do know what you mean because her brother does, and I don't think we would have ever considered taking him in. It would have caused to many problems for our family. Thanks for the advice.

Shoe
10-10-2011, 12:40 AM
My condolences on your brother's death. I can't say that I have any experience with such an experience. I do have one teen and one almost teen who started in public school, and who I am now homeschooling. So that part can be done. If she is living with you and the other two boys are homeschooled, it might make her feel more like part of the family to be included in that, rather than her be the only one in public school.

Good luck and best wishes. I hope it all turns out well.

EDIT: I guess I'd have to add what others have said. I would take her in-family means everything to me, and I wouldn't turn down any family member in need. But that is a very personal decision, obviously.

raegan
10-10-2011, 01:24 AM
This may not apply at all, but her story sort of reminds me of my MIL's story: She moved from Philly to KC to live with her aunt, uncle, and her cousins when she was 13 for whatever (not told to dh or myself) reason. She usually calls her aunt "Mom" but sometimes by her name (same for "Dad"), her technically-cousins are her brothers and sisters. I get the sense that, without that change--without having a stand-in, welcoming family unit to come to, she may have gotten "lost" if that makes any sense. She's a gracious woman to begin with, but puts up with sooo much from this dramatic family here (we love them, but they're all a little bit crazy, lol), and does so with what I sense as an extra bit of gratitude. Maybe I'm reading into it, but I doubt it because I got that sense even when I thought she was The Sane Sister before I knew the story.

So all that to say--it may be worth considering that she may well bring added blessings to your family; not just struggle.

I'm sorry for your loss (and hers) and hope your family--however it is comprised--finds an agreeable solution for all involved. ((hugs)) I can't imagine how difficult this time is for you all.

Gabriela
10-10-2011, 09:11 AM
Can you do a trial year before going through the whole adoption process?

StartingOver
10-10-2011, 09:35 AM
I would have to try it, if it was me. My husband was raised by his grandmother in the country, and really loved her. She passed when he was 13, and he went to live with her daughter in a larger town. It was so good for him to get out more, to meet so many different people. The change was hard. But moving into a family group was wonderful for him. Instead of separated by many years from his caretaker, he was suddenly in a family with 3 other children and a mother and father figure. Something he didn't know he was missing at the time. Not that it was always sunshine and roses.

I have 3 adult children, and two little ones. None of them were easy teens, but we made it through.

You can homeschool her, and if it doesn't work she can always go to school, I think homeschooling even in the short term will give you time to adjust to the new situation without outside influence. Some great bonding time. But I would take it slow, I wouldn't worry about keeping up, and would just work on deschooling. Let her help with the little ones, and find her place in the family unit. But set a definite date for a full course load later.

I think I remember you live in my area ( C.C. ), if so I sure hope you live in one of the good school districts. There are a few around here that I wouldn't put a child into no matter what !

CatInTheSun
10-10-2011, 10:54 AM
I don't have person experience (beyond an uncle taken in for a couple years by my grandparents) and I have a few more years before our girls enter their teens. However, I believe we rarely have the opportunity to make a real difference in another person's life, and when those opportunities present themselves, I try to take them. Mind you, so far in my life, that's usually just mean helping out a friend here and there or volunteering to fill a gap, not changing my whole family. :)

Your niece has grown up as essentially an only child of a single-parent. She's hurting and lost right now. I can't think of anything better for her than to be made part of a REAL family, with siblings and stability. If you and your dh are able and willing, I suspect in the end you and your boys will gain more from gaining a new family member than you can imagine right now.

Although practical, I don't know how a "trial basis" would meet her need for stability. I mean, can you imagine -- feeling like you were on trial and worried you'd lose your family if you acted up one day? I know if feels risky, but so is having a baby or adopting -- you ask those same questions, don't you? How will this affect the other kids? What if this child has problems? The truth is it's always a risk. Sounds like this girl doesn't have any history of problems and you have a good relationship with her. Especially if you homeschool, you've got a few years to build that strong bond to see you thru those teen years (for the record, I was an "easy" teen, so we do exist, LOL). Kids can't learn without feeling SAFE and secure. I suspect the safer she feels entering the teen years, the easier it will be.

So yes, I would jump in with both feet, and yes, I'd homeschool her too, if she wanted that. I agree it'd make her feel more part of the family. You can really make a difference in this girl's life, and she'll fill that new place in your heart you make for her. You'll have a daughter. On the other hand, no one will blame you if you decide not to. It's good to keep an eye out for potential problems, but in the end trust your heart.

Besy wishes with your decision, and sorry for the loss that necessitates the decision.

Mum
10-10-2011, 11:42 AM
I don't have person experience (beyond an uncle taken in for a couple years by my grandparents) and I have a few more years before our girls enter their teens. However, I believe we rarely have the opportunity to make a real difference in another person's life, and when those opportunities present themselves, I try to take them. Mind you, so far in my life, that's usually just mean helping out a friend here and there or volunteering to fill a gap, not changing my whole family. :)

Your niece has grown up as essentially an only child of a single-parent. She's hurting and lost right now. I can't think of anything better for her than to be made part of a REAL family, with siblings and stability. If you and your dh are able and willing, I suspect in the end you and your boys will gain more from gaining a new family member than you can imagine right now.

Although practical, I don't know how a "trial basis" would meet her need for stability. I mean, can you imagine -- feeling like you were on trial and worried you'd lose your family if you acted up one day? I know if feels risky, but so is having a baby or adopting -- you ask those same questions, don't you? How will this affect the other kids? What if this child has problems? The truth is it's always a risk. Sounds like this girl doesn't have any history of problems and you have a good relationship with her. Especially if you homeschool, you've got a few years to build that strong bond to see you thru those teen years (for the record, I was an "easy" teen, so we do exist, LOL). Kids can't learn without feeling SAFE and secure. I suspect the safer she feels entering the teen years, the easier it will be.

So yes, I would jump in with both feet, and yes, I'd homeschool her too, if she wanted that. I agree it'd make her feel more part of the family. You can really make a difference in this girl's life, and she'll fill that new place in your heart you make for her. You'll have a daughter. On the other hand, no one will blame you if you decide not to. It's good to keep an eye out for potential problems, but in the end trust your heart.

Besy wishes with your decision, and sorry for the loss that necessitates the decision.

Exactly what she said. We'll be thinking of you and your family. Please keep us posted.

Christy
10-10-2011, 12:06 PM
My condolences regarding your brother's death.

With regards to homeschooling a teenage girl... what is your style of homeschooling? How independant would you expect her to be? How would you deal with it if she doesn't want to do the work? What kind of activities would allow her to have contact with other youth, and how would getting her to those activities affect the rest of the family? It sounds like homeschooling could be good for her, if she's shy and quiet she might need time to adjust to living with you guys without also facing stress at school, and it might help her feel a part of the family. But if schoolwork becomes a point of tension, then that would be another story.

Jilly
10-10-2011, 12:49 PM
I think you have an opportunity to make a difference in this girl's life, and if it was me, I wouldn't be able to say no to her. As far as homeschooling, I think it would benefit her. I would do something easy, maybe time4learning, so as not to create any stress between you and her.

For what it is worth, I have a 12 year old girl, and she is the sweetest kid. I think 12 is a wonderful age.


Your niece has grown up as essentially an only child of a single-parent. She's hurting and lost right now. I can't think of anything better for her than to be made part of a REAL family, with siblings and stability.

As a single parent with children, I just have to say that we are a REAL family.

CatInTheSun
10-10-2011, 01:17 PM
As a single parent with children, I just have to say that we are a REAL family.

@Jilly: I was not implying single-parent families are and less real. Both my siblings are single parents of an only child, and do a great job. But I wasn't discussing single-parenthood, but THIS situation.

In THIS case, you have a child with a half-sibling she doesn't live with, apparently not much contact with her mother, and her father had physical custody (as long as he behaved) while the grandma had legal custody. I think we can agree that doesn't sound ideal. Then she loses her father. In this case, yes, I think having as MUCH family as possible -- a mother, a father, and siblings all will add to her life and help her find her place in the new family. To her, I think a 2-parent family with several kids would seem like a "real" family, all just signs of stability she probably has never had.

Pefa
10-11-2011, 09:42 PM
Having just lost a brother, I know that's tough to wrap your brain around. I'm sorry.

What a lucky girl to have you in her life, what a lucky family to have a girl to love. I totally love mine. Even at our darkest moments, I knew we'd get through it just fine. I think you're aware of the pitfalls and as ready to deal with them as any of us are. It's harder for me to speak to the hs'ing or not, in VT kids hs'd kids can take part in school programs at the discretion of the principal. It used to be a big deal, now it's totally normal to find a couple of hs'ers taking classes or playing in bands or on sports teams. At least in the beginning, that might be a way for all of you to figure out what makes sense for the longer term.

coloradoalice
10-12-2011, 12:29 AM
I would have to do it too, I agree with all the posters who say to go for it! Sometimes you have to just jump. :)

beachmama
10-12-2011, 07:49 PM
Thank you everyone for your kind words and advice, it really has helped ease my mind. Right now we are focusing on getting everything ready for her arrival. It is still going to be a little while before we get everything finalized but I will keep everyone up-to-date on how things are going. We are very excited to start this new chapter in our lives. I know in my heart that, while it will be tough, it is going to be a positive change for everyone. Nothing worth having comes easy, right? Thanks again for all your help :)

TamaraNC
10-13-2011, 09:38 AM
I'm late to this thread, but I just wanted to add that I think it's going to be so lovely for that poor girl to have a home with you and yours. I'm a little teary just thinking about it. :)

Yarngoddess
11-19-2011, 02:38 AM
Sorry to hear about your brother. I think you and DH are doing the right thing by trying to help his daughter. Wishing all goes well with a transition!

Pefa
11-19-2011, 06:07 PM
How's are you all doing?