I have no idea what forum I should post this in...if it needs to be moved, please do so.
My 12 yo DD has had a very good friend for going on two years now. We have recently moved about 45 minutes away, and her friend has come with us. There has been no formal arrangement made, but when we lived in our previous city, this little one was at our house every weekend, and often slept over during the week as well. Friend has some behaviour issues. Basically, she is rough around the edges. She's not been taught how to properly behave. She is often in trouble at school, and most of the neighbourhood mothers have told me to get my daughter to avoid her. This has vastly improved over the past year, though.
A little background on her mom - she has three children, ages 13, 11 and 7, and is pregnant now, due in December. She lost a daughter to SIDS three years ago (not sure if that's relevant, but you'll see why I mention it). Until her recent pregnancy, she was rarely home. She was always "working". She worked at a bar downtown, but it often seemed as though she'd be gone for days at a time, leaving her then 12 yo in charge of her younger two. The 12 yo would cook, clean, make sure everyone got to school, etc. Many times, I would look outside and see all three children roaming the streets late at night, after dark on school nights, long after my own children had been bathed and put to bed. All three of them come to my house when they need a band aid, or if they have any type of minor medical issue (splinter, earring rip, scrape from falling). The older two girls regularly smell of BO, and wear dirty clothes that are clearly too small. We do what we can with hand me downs, etc. I pretend to buy extra sticks of deodorant, or have told them that I don't like the scent of a particular deodorant, and they gladly take them home. There is no way around it - mom is neglecting these girls. I do not think that they are in DANGER, per se, but they can definitely use a lot of help.
One day, I see mom on the street in front of my house and I invite her in to talk. I needed to address something Friend did the week previous that had me concerned. I was sure to be non hostile and calm. She opened up to me. She cried, told me that she hasn't been the same since she lost her daughter, she knows she isn't a good mother, but is doing better, and knows she has dropped the ball. I tell her that when you know better, you do better, and not to beat herself up over the past. She is changing and the future is all that matters. I think, great...she's getting her shit together, and I expect to see great improvements.
Several weeks pass. I learn that mom has left her older two alone for the weekend without groceries. My daughter came home and told me that the girls had not eaten all day. I called Friend and her older sister over (they were playing outside across the street), and she confirms that this is the case. My husband and I ordered a pizza to their house, and gave them some fruit to eat until the pizza arrived (this was at 9pm on the Saturday and the girls had not eaten in more than 24 hours). According to my daughter, this was happening more and more frequently. The mom was the little one with her for the weekend and leaving the other two to their own devices.
The week after the pizza, DD's friend was sent to my house on two separate occasions to ask me for food. Both times, I did them up a care package, and one of the times I gave Friend $20 to give to her mom. Then I learn that mom is going to Jamaica, and is leaving the older two home alone for the week. I called the Mom and offered for the girls to stay with us. She has this strangely pleasant conversation with me, and I try to be friendly and polite so that she'll agree to let the girls stay, so that I can keep them out of harm's way. She tells me in the context of this conversation that she's been under a lot of stress, and that her girlfriends have paid for her trip because she needs to get away for a while. She agrees to let Friend stay with me, but the 13 yo will be home, as that is what 13 year old wants. I ask her to let 13 yo know that if she gets lonely, to please come to our place.
Later, I learn that the mom has paid for the trip with her child tax credit (monthly allowance that many Canadians get if they earn under 50k per year, to help them care for their children). So...while she is eating our food, and leaving her children without the necessities of life, she spends THEIR money to go and take a Carribbean vacation. UGH.
AAAnyway...The week before school lets out, we move here. I ask if Friend can come with us for the weekend. Her mother agrees to meet us halfway on the Sunday night to pick up Friend, as her 6th grade graduation is the next day. Sunday night rolls around, and her mom says she can't come to meet me until about midnight, as she is getting her other daughter's hair braided and it will still take several hours. I tell her mother that I am not willing to bring her back at that time, and that I will keep her overnight, and we will touch base some time on the Monday. Mom agrees. I hear nothing from her.
I have now had Friend at my house for 28 days. Not once has Mom called me. Friend has called both her mom and her dad a time or two, but not once have either of them attempted to contact me. I refuse to call her for a few reasons. One, because she agreed to call me for a return the next day, and still hasn't. Two, because I honestly think Friend is better off here, and Friend has expressed to me several times that she wants to stay. She says she feels "safe" here.
I would REALLY like to keep CAS out of this. I am terrified of being the reason that these sisters are permanently separated. I just want to keep this one close for now. In an ideal situation, we would take all three, but we have neither the room, nor the resources to do so. I can, however, offer Friend a soft place to land for the time being. We have grown over the past couple of years to really care for her.
DH and I have had several conversations about this. We both think it's in Friend's best interest to stay with us, at least for the time being, and enrol in our local school. Here is the thing - how do I approach the mother about this? How do you ask someone if you can have their child? How can I make it seem like I am doing her a favour, and helping her by giving her a break during a hard time? I do not wish to gain monetarily in any way - even though a social worker friend has said that we are already in a position of entitlement to Friend and ample monetary resources. We don't want or need this - but we do need mom's approval to enrol her in school, and to obtain medical advice for her as well.
Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated. I hope I have been eloquent enough to convey our situation. Ask any questions you'd like for clarity. I could really just use some words to fill me with courage and insight on how to proceed from here...