Author Topic: Caring for kids who are not your own  (Read 3861 times)

Offline pinklucy

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Caring for kids who are not your own
« on: Mar 30, 2007, 01:44:23 AM »
At the moment my 3 year old niece is living with me. She's been here on and off for a couple of months now and it looks like it may become reasonably long term. It's happened through bad circumstances and if I'm honest I'm only doing it because I have to.

I find I'm struggling with trying to 'parent' a child who isn't my own. I know I'm not as there for her emotionally as I should be, and goodness knows, the poor girl really needs that at the moment. I know that I'm kissing and cuddling Jessy all the time and she isn't getting her fair share. It doesn't help that as soon as she does try to have a cuddle Jessy goes into a screaming fit of jealousy and it ends up with a fight on my lap and all of us fed up.  :(

Are there others of you living with kids who are not your own, and how do you deal with the issues of feeling differently towards your own child and the child who is not yours? I was actually surprised by how strongly I felt the difference.

I really am doing my best for her, but I worry that my resentment is seeping through into my actions even if it's subtle as I do try to be very aware of it.
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jenr

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #1 on: Mar 30, 2007, 08:17:47 AM »
I can completely relate to this. In December 2002 I got up and went to work as normal.  By bedtime I had gained a 4 year old and a 2 year old (and their hamster), also through 'bad circumstances'.

I don't have any children of my own, so for a 25 year old who loved my independance, I had to change my life overnight for these two little ladies.  I already had a good grasp of how to care for little ones, as I had always played a big part in my nieces lives.  But dealing with their emotional needs was heartbreaking.  How do you comfort a little toddler, still in nappies, when all she wants is her Mummy - who isn't going to be back for a long time?  Whilst at the same time, you don't have a single clue if your own life is coming or going.

Within a few weeks, the younger niece's Father had got himself a Parental Responsibility Order and the court granted him interim residence order in respect of her.  That day when 3 Social Workers came and took her away from me was the most heartbreaking day of my life.

Difficult months past and I then had the difficult decision of whether I was going to apply for custody of the older niece.  The only other option was for her to go into long term foster care, which usually means that the child only has contact with it's extended family a couple of times a year.

No fucking way.  I'd taught that little girl to read and write by now, bought her shoes and wiped her nose when she had a cold.  OK, I was getting more than sick of staying in at the weekend. But watching 'Monsters Inc' and 'Finding Nemo' was actually quite a lot of fun, too.  Yes, I resented her at times, too.  I had no life.  But I did, I had the best life.

Thankfully, after 14 months of practically begging every Social Worker, judge, guardian and their dog........ it was agreed that my little baby could go and live back with her Mum, against all the odds.  This was the happiest day of my life - to see her pack up her little bags and load them into the car in the same way that she had done 14 months before.  But this time we all had smiles on our faces.  A year or so later it was also agreed that the younger child could also return to my Sister for periods of time.  Although still, to date, this is an ongoing court case.

I miss them every day.  I'm proud of their maturity, and I'm proud of the way they kept their heads held high when all the other kids asked why they lived with their Auntie and not their Mum.  I learnt a lot from them.

I'd have them back with me any day.  Nobody will ever love their nieces as much as I love those two.  That's a fact.

Lust For Life

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #2 on: Mar 30, 2007, 10:08:13 AM »
oh (((((Lucy)))))!  (and, for different reasons, oh ((((BOB))))!)

Lucy, please don't feel bad that you feel a difference, things are all upside down at the moment and your newcomer is older than Jessy - but not old enough to want to to help look after him.  You have a whole load of "sibling rivalry" with a load of extra factors thrown in.

I have a lot of nieces and nephews, and have not had to live with them (but we do spend up to five days together once or twice a year).  I can honestly say that I find some much easier to feel close to than others, and that even the ones I find "easiest" are still not my own children.

I don't know how good the relationship with your niece was before she moved in, but this will have changed things anyway.  I have posted on here before about my difficulties over wanting to "protect my baby" - even if it's from my "other baby" (they're well out of nappies but you know what I mean) and one of my solutions has been to cuddle the more distant one becasue I think he should be cuddled more, and not because either of us spontaneously want to cuddle each other at that moment.  I would say that it "works" - the spontaneous cuddles now account for about half (rather than more like 95%) of the cuddles - and for anyone worrying that this might mean I stopped bothering with the "extra" cuddles, that's also not the case.  We cuddle at least once a day, sometimes more now (it was a lot less for a long time :-\) and he often approaches me for a cuddle.  Many kids his age are already reducing the amount of cuddles they want (he's 11) but I think we are still making up for lost time a bit.

I hope some others have more similar experiences to share, I posted because I thought maybe if BOB's was the only reply you might feel even more inadequate (and you are so NOT!) - and please don't be offended by that BOB, I am referring to how well positively you view your similar experience, but it's the fact that Lucy was feeling less positive that led her to post...  I'll slope off now, hoping that i haven't upset anyone :-*

robin70

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #3 on: Mar 30, 2007, 10:12:50 AM »
@ Uncle Bob - your post actually brought tears to my eyes  :-*

@ PinkLucy - its early days, it will all become so much easier - big hugs to you  :)

Offline Ruth

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #4 on: Mar 30, 2007, 11:21:36 AM »
Pinklucy - I'm sort of about to have a similar experience, but from the other direction. My sister died two years ago, and since then we've had shared care of my niece - most weekends and all school holidays. We definitely have it easier than you - she's 6, and we only have her part time. But now we're about to have our own baby too, and both I and my partner have to constantly remember not to do things that will make her feel left out. I can't say much about the differences in how I'll feel towards my own child, since I'm not there yet, but I really can sympathise with the difficulties of looking after someone else's child, no matter how much you love them and want to be there for them. I try desperately not to be snappy with her, but when she does things that are very irritating, it's hard. It used to be harder though - when she first moved in we had to work out ways of doing stuff together, because the patterns of relating to her mum that she already had just weren't going to work for us. Now we seem to established more of 'our' way of doing things, and that's made it easier for us, and probably for her too.

I think it takes a long time for a child to feel settled, and it's okay for you and Jessy to feel unsettled too - it's a big change for all of you. My niece being here even sometimes unsettled the relationship between me and my partner at first, when it felt like I was choosing between the two of them, and we're both grown-ups with (hopefully) a good degree of self-awareness about our emotions. If possible, I'd say make some time just for you and Jessy, so he still feels that he is the most special person. And the idea of hugging/being physical with your niece just because you know she needs that contact, not because either of you specially wants a hug at that moment is a good one. But also make time for just being you, and accept that you are doing your very best to do something very difficult, and that you don't have to be the perfect parent and the perfect aunty at the same time  :-*

1984

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #5 on: Mar 30, 2007, 06:22:45 PM »
((((( Pink Lucy))))

I understand a lot of where you're coming from. I use the term "our kiddie" and "my son" when talking to people but as some know, I'm his step mum. He didn't come into my life until he was 4 and a half. Although I don't have another child 'of my own' I do understand how you feel.

Kiddie can be very hard work, and it takes a lot not to snap at him sometimes. I am often very jealous and even resentful that my partner copes so well with him. I feel that the bond they have makes it a lot easier for Jimmy to cope, and I've also noticed that if Jimmy snaps at him he won't be as upset as if I snap at him. I really do think the mother and child bond is very important, and for a parent or carer that doesn't have that inbuilt in them it is always going to be difficult. Children are difficult, that's why the bond exists!

As other people have said, you will form your own kind of bond with your niece, it takes time but it will happen. Try and spend time with both your niece and your son alone. It will help Jessy feel more secure, and it will help build bridges with your niece.

If your sister and your niece are going to be staying with you long term, then I think you need to talk to your sister (if you haven't already) about what rights you have with your niece, discipline etc. If you become an "equal" parent in your niece's eyes, it will be a lot easier I think.

Good luck, I hope some of my babbling is helpful.  :-*

Offline pinklucy

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #6 on: Apr 02, 2007, 01:01:11 AM »
Thanks for the replies.

Bob, it sounds like you did a wonderful job, and I'm glad things worked out happily in the end. It just about broke my heart to think of a toddler still in nappies (just like my Jessy) inconsolable for their Mum.  :'(

Ruth, I'm very sorry to hear about your sister. The level of care you give to your niece sounds much more like something I feel I can manage longetrm. I think this will be the ineveitable outcome - my niece and nephews will sadly , most likely end up in the care system, but with regular visits I hope.

Lust for Life, you are certainly right about the sibling rivalry stuff! My niece has a 7 and 9 year old brothers, so she's used to being the 'baby girl'. Now she's suddenly the oldest. Jessy is used to being an only child and has now suddenly got an older 'sibling' to deal with. It's big changes all round. Thanks for just acknowedging that I don't feel goos about this right now too, that helps.

That's one of the hard things, feeling like I should be feeling, 'well, of course I just want to look after my niece and cuddle her, she's going through such a tough time!' where as I actually feel , 'you know what? I've been bailing my sister out of her neverending shithole of an existence for a decade now and it's just getting worse and I don't want to do it anymore and now my child is caught up in it too.' That's the real problem - I just don't want to do this. I want it all to go away, and I feel like a horrible person for feeling that way.  :(

Tinks, it always sounds like you do an amazing job with your (step)son. Funnily enough, I found caring for my sister's kids a lot easy before I had my own child. I do admire people who can choose to take on a full parenting role with a child who hasn't been their own from birth. I don't feel like I'm cut out to do that.





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Lust For Life

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #7 on: Apr 02, 2007, 02:58:30 PM »
Pinklucy, by taking your niece in and not actively abusing her YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB!  I take it your sister is not living with you this time?  There are layers and layers of reasons why the new set up is difficult and none of them are your (or Jessy's or your niece's) "fault".  The "dry run" that you had with your sister and nephew there too was not the same as this, and will have added reasons why it's even harder this time to find roles thast fit for you all.  Last time the two families were separate but living in the same (small) space, this time you have an expectation (from yourself at least, by the sounds of it) to be creating one new family - and it's not sitting right with you.

It sounds to me like you need some serious thinking time if foster care is looking a realistic possibility for your niece.  You're right to ralise that if your heart's not in it you are not the parent that she needs.

BUT

you may still be a better parent for her than you realise.  Wherever she goes, she will have similar difficulties settling into a "new order".  And you may well still feel guilty or anxious every time you hear that the new home is also not perfect :-\

A few things spring to mind:

that it can be ok for your feelings towards Jessy to be different than for your niece.  You hear all the time that kids of mum-and-dad parents say "I love my Mum and I love my Dad, but it's not the same".  Just because she lives with you and you are responsible for her welfare doesn't mean you can't have the same get-out clause:"I love my son and I love my niece, but it's not the same".    OK, if it makes you feel better still I can admit the unsayable: "I love both my (bio) chioldren, but not in tha same way"  We live in a society where there is a lot of pressure on us to (pretend to) love all of our children equally - but we are risking a breakdown at times if we don't (at least to ourselves) admit that BECAUSE OUR CHILDREN ARE DIFFERENT, there IS a difference.

You say that you don't want this full time and indefinitely.  Is there are part-time option?  Try to find it before you're exhausted.  Long term that would be a wonderful thing that you can do for your niece.

Whatever you do for your niece, you do for your niece.  If your sister gets some benefit from it, well, that's a by product.  But for your heart to be in this you do it for your niece or not at all....

This story reminds me of a very bad patch a close friend went through when she found out her husband had cheated on her:  she chose to stay and work things out, but what she found terrible was that suddenly her feelings for her own children started to include the bitterness and anger you describe.  "why on earth have I given up my career and and and to look after HIS children and he behaves so irresponsibly?".  A few years on she has pretty much forgotten that she felt like this towards them for a time back there :) Your sister has dropped you in it bigtime, but over time that will matter much less in how you feel towards your niece.

Whatever happens, you are doing more than you "signed up for" and you should never feel bad that you didn't manage more.  But I do wonder if you are beating yourself up too much over this.  If you go forward as a family unit it doesn't have to fit anyone's model but your own.

Succes and sterkte! :-*
« Last Edit: Apr 02, 2007, 03:01:13 PM by Lust For Life »

Offline smiling

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #8 on: Apr 02, 2007, 09:55:39 PM »
a friend of mine has had a foster child living with her (her bio mum couldn;t look after her and the girl would have had to go in foster care etc) - in addition to her own daughter, who is three years older than the foster daughter.
for my friend it has been a bumpy ride! it does not help that the bio mother kept telling the daughter that my friend had taken her away from her and that they were stopping her from seeing her (to clarify: the bio mum has drug problems and the kid was malnourished and very neglected by the age of four, when she finally was taken in by my friend). so the bio mum kept turning her daughter against my friend and that definitely did nothing to help the kid getting used to the new situation. it was also hard for my friend's daughter, who was jealous and did not like to suddenly share her mum as well as her room.

my friend had a really hard time - the little girl was VERY challenging to say the least, after all that she had been through and my friend also felt torn about feeling obliged to take care of the girl and not actually wanting to have two kids to look after. they struggled through all this - and with help from other friends, who the girl goes to stay with some days and some weekends, things have turned out really quite well.
it still is a problem that it is so clear to the girls that she is NOT the "proper" child, but the taken on one. she does feel left out and it shows in her behaviour, too. 
i know that my friend really cares about her and loves her too in a way. but i don;t think she has ever got away from making a diffference between the two girls, although they have been living together now for about 8 years.
i am not really sure why i wrote this, since it doesn;t give any info about how my friend dealt with the situation. i guess i am trying to say that you will have to go with the flow and see what comes.

maybe getting the children to become really good friends first might help in diffusing the jealousy?
do lots of stuff together, where there is no one-to-one, but everyone together?
read good night stories all together, piled up in the bed? stuff like that, where it becomes clear that there is enough of love and attention for both the children?

just an idea....i wish you luck and patience and love and strength.
you will need that....

smiling
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is nur die Ruhe vor dem Sturm.
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Offline merce

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #9 on: Apr 03, 2007, 04:44:20 PM »
Not much to add here that everyone hasn't said except i am in awe of the good work you are doing. Is there any chance of some respite for you? (via social services or any other way)? Does your niece have a nursery place, for example? Can you talk to Jessy openly about his feelings (am sure you do!) - some of these problems (a minority of course) are like sibling ones. I know you are feeling this is terribly hard for Jessy - but perhaps he is also benefitting from it, maybe in longer term ways that aren't so obvious as you are feeling a bit besieged.
And maybe at the moment all you can do is think, I just have to cope with this a while longer and see how it settles..

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #10 on: Apr 03, 2007, 07:41:26 PM »
Not much to add here that everyone hasn't said except i am in awe of the good work you are doing. Is there any chance of some respite for you? (via social services or any other way)? Does your niece have a nursery place, for example? Can you talk to Jessy openly about his feelings (am sure you do!) - some of these problems (a minority of course) are like sibling ones. I know you are feeling this is terribly hard for Jessy - but perhaps he is also benefitting from it, maybe in longer term ways that aren't so obvious as you are feeling a bit besieged.
And maybe at the moment all you can do is think, I just have to cope with this a while longer and see how it settles..

Good point about respite - if Social Services are involved - you really need to push and push and push, but they do offer a respite.  When I cared for my niece, she occasionally used to stay with a single woman at weekends who had volunteered, and had been thoroughly vetted by Social Services.  They make sure that the child and the carer get on first.... the lady who looked after my niece was great.  They both adored each other and had lots of fun.  But you do really need to push SS for this respite.

We also ended up getting 35.00 a week from Social Services.......to cover extra child care arrangements.  Not nearly enough, but it covered Holiday Club, etc.  Again, you have to get down on your hands and knees and beg, practically.

Also, there are volunteer drivers who work for Social Services who take kids to school, pick them up etc.  Again, they are thoroughly vetted.

It is worth pushing for these things.

Offline pinklucy

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #11 on: Apr 06, 2007, 01:18:42 AM »
Hi everyone,

I thought I'd give you an update. Yesterday my niece and nephews all went into foster care. It had become impossible to keep them safe as the parents seemed to be planning to try and snatch them and we were spending all day everyday being out and about to avoid that.

I considered keeping my niece on when I found out she would have to go to a foster home without her brothers but was told I'd have to commit to having her for at least a year and to be honest I don't feel able to do that. A big factor is my parenting choices. I plan to home educate Jessy, and it's very important to me. My niece had previously enjoyed 5 days a week at nursery. I dont drive and can't get her there. In order to home educate in the way I plan with Jessy she would have to be permanantely in my care and I'd need consent from both parents. It just wasn't going to work out.

I feel sad but also relieved. It's been wonderful to have my time back with Jessy again and to focus on parenting my own child. He's been so happy to have my focus back on him again too. Luckily my niece was very excited about going to the foster carer and couldn't wait to go! She's incredibly sociable and outgoing and she really just saw it as a huge exciting adventure! I feel pretty sure she'll be ok.

Thanks for all your support.
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Offline greenbabies83

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #12 on: Apr 09, 2007, 04:50:51 PM »
ALL, I am in awe of your ability to put the children's needs before you own emotions.

I currently have my nephew 2 and half and neice 6months, living with us, as well as my own 5 year old son.

Jealousy is a huge issue, along with the practaclities of raising 3 children, I would love to keep them living with us. They have been with us for 4 months and we are close to breaking point.

It is impossible to navigate three children, go to work, clean the house and make time for everyone!!!

Social services have been helpful to a degree but have only really become involved now that we say we are struggling.
We have discussed foster care and they looking for a placement, I feel so torn, they are offering us every thing to help us keep the children. I feel as though it may be to late, and in all honesty angry.  Had they helped us from the beginning thet we may not be in this situation.

The thought of caring for my family for the next year or so sounds fine, but the thought that this could be FOREVER terrifies me!!!!

Offline pinklucy

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #13 on: Apr 10, 2007, 01:33:02 AM »
Wow, greenbabies, it sounds like you are doing such a great job. You're a better person than I am, I have to say that the thought of continuing for a year terrified me.  :-[ It's hard not to feel guilty about it, but I don't think I would have provided the right home for my niece if I'd resented doing it, and I also worried about the effect it would have on my nephews knowing that I could have her but not them.

We had the same frustrations with social services. They didn't do anything they said they were going to do, including getting Domestic Violence counselling for my sister and she was all set to go back to her abusive husband which could have literally been the death of her. They only did something when we contacted the emergency team and said the kids were in immediate danger. It's really tough.

Having 3 kids is like a different Universe to having one, or even two, it just seems like neverending chaos and needs and wants. I can honestly say I would never want to have 3 children. The pleasure seems to drain out of it for me once there are more than 2. I hope things work out for you all greenbabies.
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jenr

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Re: Caring for kids who are not your own
« Reply #14 on: Apr 10, 2007, 12:21:40 PM »
We had the same frustrations with social services. They didn't do anything they said they were going to do, including getting Domestic Violence counselling for my sister and she was all set to go back to her abusive husband which could have literally been the death of her. They only did something when we contacted the emergency team and said the kids were in immediate danger. It's really tough.

Social Services can often frustrate me too!  I'm afraid to say, in my experience, that a really 'decent' Social Worker is hard to find.  The first one we had was awful, I won't comment on the things she did and said because it upsets and angers me too much.  But the long term Social Worker who took over was completely different.  If you can 'work with' them it makes things run a lot smoother.  I think, on the whole, Child and Family workers, Social Workers in that field, are so 'used to' people fighting against them. But if you can try to make compromises with them, I found that they see you as co-operating and will do a lot more in your favour. 

They do make horrendous administrational errors as well - I had a highly confidential letter addressed to me sent to the wrong person - Not a good idea when it involves childrens' welfare.

They were also supposed to collect my 5 year niece from school to visit her Mum once - she was left sitting in her school playground after school because nobody came to collect her.  By the time the school had contacted me, and I had managed to get through to SS, it was too late for her to see her Mum.  Not nice trying to console a little girl who only got to see her Mum for a couple of hours a week.

My advice is, if you experience similar 'administrational errors' (as they call them), WRITE TO YOUR MP.  I did - and he actually intervened with the County Council in the end.  Social Services HAVE TO GET IT RIGHT.

Having said that, there are some decent, caring Social Workers out there - it does make them look bad when there are problems with the rest of the team.