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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My name is Kathleen. My sister died of a heroin overdose last week and I am the only family member left for her four young children.
Hailey is 6, Cristine is 4, Amy is 3, and Benny is 2. Up until last week I didn't even know the younger two existed, and I had seen Hailey a few times as an infant and never seen Christine (though I knew she had her). I didn't speak to my sister because I was sick of her lying and stealing. Perhaps it was the wrong choice, but there is no point debating it now.
I got home yesterday with the kids. I am at a total loss. I am single and childless by choice. I live in a small 3 bedroom condo (one bedroom being my office and the other being my workout room), I drive a 2 seater convertible, I work 60 hours a week. I am NOT a mother. I never wanted kids, but I have them now. I'm not walking away from them. I've thought about it a few times, but they're my family, and I'm all they have now.
I live a very healthy lifestyle. I eat all organic whole foods (well as close as I can get to all), I work out regularly, I do yoga, I meditate, I go to a homeopath in addition to my family doctor, I avoid antibiotics, I do not own a television. I don't smoke and rarely drink, I am the exact opposite of my sister.
These kids live off of cheap processed foods, they watch TV constantly, they haven't been to a doctor in who knows how long and I doubt they have ever been to a dentist. I am going to buy them car seats today (they didn't have any with their mom, and the ones I bought them at the last minute aren't right for their ages and weights) and for now I am renting a car until I buy another one. They're seeing my doctor tomorrow but I need to find a pediatrician for them. A friend of mine is watching them for me now, but I need day care and schools. I need to get them all vaccinated, I need to get Benny circumcised, I need to get their cavities filled, I need to buy beds for them and figure out how to fit them in my house!
This looked like a good place to start for asking any and all questions about children. I am completely clueless. I never even babysat as a kid.

I'm sorry is this sounds scatterbrained. I am just trying to figure out how to go about all of this. Is there anyone who can give me any advice? Also I picked this board because it seemed less mainstream. I don't want them eating crap and watching hours of TV. I want to get them healthy and keep them that way, and I have always been a fairly crunchy person, so I imagine I will be a crunchy parent. The kids seem to be okay for now but I know that eventually the loss of their mother will hit home and they will need something. I guess I need to find a counselor for them as well eventually. First I need to get health insurance for them!

Thanks for all of your help guys. Any advice is welcome and appreciated.
 

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Wow. I am so sorry for your loss, and I think it is amazing that you are going to mama your sister's children. What a huge lifestyle change. Come here for lots of support!!

On the junk food... I would go with it for now, but in time you will be able to switch them over to good food. Children are very adaptable.

Circumcision - check out the circ board here. Circumcision is NOT necessary and is a harmful medical procedure. It is not done in many parts of the world; in Europe for example intact men are the norm.

I am sending you so much good energy.
 

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I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. Sounds like the kids are lucky to have you though! Along with the circumcision board, please also check out the vaccination board.
 

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You should be able to add them to your policy through work, with an Order from the Court, at any time within 30 days of the Order being signed. Otherwise you might have to see the cost of private insurance, but that is going to be close to about $75 a child per month, the only other choice would be to see if you would qualify for your state's version of Health Insurance for Children/Working Families. You would be considered a family of 5, and the income levels are fairly high to qualify.

I would do a yahoogroups search for local mom's groups and ask them for Pediatrician recommendations. Also, look for a reputable counseling service that deals with children and youth.

As for circumcision, unless there is a religious reason, there are generally no longer and medical reasons to do it. For more discussions check out some of the threads on the other boards here regarding it.

As for beds and carseats, check with your local firestation or police department. Sometimes if you have a wrong carseat, they will exchange it for you with one of the ones they have for free, and will make sure that it is installed properly. As for beds, find out if you have a local cheapcycle or freecycle group, and sometimes you can find the headboards/footboards and raise cheap or free, then goto Morris and just get a cheap generic twin mattress and box spring.

As for fitting them in y our house, that will just take some time and willingness to put things up and away or find new homes for them.

Good luck.
 

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My number one suggestion would be to GET SUPPORT. Financial. Social. Medical. Since you are essentially in the position of adopting these kids, that's where I would start. Look in your phone book under adoption. Most places of any size have support groups for families adopting older kids who have trauma in their past. Your county human services agency would be a place to start, and there might be a non-profit agency too - I'm not sure where you're located, but if you post over on the adoption board of mothering.com, people would have help to offer, I'm sure.

The kids probably will qualify for social security payments and you should make sure to get them - adding four children is a huge financial strain for you, no matter your income. I don't know the details of your family situation, but be sure that you get actual legal custody if you intend to raise the children. It's even possible that your state may offer financial subsidies if you adopt the children as well as providing medical coverage. You should check into this, because they will probably need therapeutic interventions, and might have developmental delays as well. Was child protection involved with your sister before her death?

Do you know any parents? Do you belong to a church or spiritual community that might help you out? Suportive co-workers? Now is the time to call in help - people could donate clothes and toys, make food for you, provide child care while you run errands. If your own networks seem slim, you might want to post in the "Find Your Tribe" forum to see if there are moms in your area who could help you out short-term.

You might qualify for FMLA from your work, and while it's unpaid, you could at least get a little time to get them settled and find decent child care. Please take things one at a time, and don't get embroiled in big, contentious issues like vaccination, circumcision and diet yet. These children need love, first and foremost, and it sounds like you have plenty to give. With enough support, I'm sure you can do this.

Best wishes to you - do post on the adoption forum for more support - there are folks on there who have adopted older sibling groups and could really help you out.
 

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Sounds like all your lives are in major upheaval. It would be very overwhelming. For right now, I'd try to keep things somewhat the same for the kids while they are adjusting and grieving. I would put counseling for all of you high on the priority list.

This board is a good resource for all of your questions.
 

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Kathleen, wow! what an amazing turn your life (and theirs) has taken. I am sorry about your sister, thats sad and very tragic. It is wonderful that you are there for her children, as you know they are innocent in all this and deserve the best possible life. I think you are a very caring woman to take on such a huge resposibility. So many changes. For you and them.

And what a strange twist of fate that you are learning about parenting this "instant family" and happen upon mothering.com. I think thats wonderful, I wish I had known about this forum when I first became a parent. I encourage you to read as much here as possible, especially the circumcision and vaccination board. As complicated as they both seem, it is important to fully inform yourself before making any decisions for the children. I know you are probably trying to figure so many things out right now, I can't even imagine.... well I guess is would be similar in a way to my childless sister taking full custody of my kids. I would hope she would be like you and care enough to really try to figure out what's best for the children. I wish you and the kids the best and I hope this journey for you is a great one
 

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I am so glad you found mdc. This is going to be a hard period of adjustment for you and the kids. Give it time and things will get better and fall into place.

There are 2 great boards here for researching vaccines and circumcision. Please take a few minutes (or hours) to look through them.

Carseat wise....your county might have a program that will give you free seats in time of hardship. Look into that.

Junk food....they are still young enough that hopefully you won't have to fight a battle to change their eating habits. In the meantime there are lots of organic "kid" food out there. Annies mac and cheese is one that comes to mind. Kid yogurts are packaged in tubes and stuff. Check your local health food store.

Good luck, and I hope you find mdc to be full of info and support.
 

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Kathleen, I am so very, very sorry for the loss of your sister. I know that in most ways you lost her many years ago. My sister is also an addict (thankfully clean and sober for over 3 years now) and the pain of watching a beloved sibling kill themselves is huge.

First, breathe. The good news is, your love and commitment to these children is going to carry you a long, long way. I hope that the social workers and all the rest of the people involved in your situation so far have given you some help for the children's emotional needs; if not, then you need that right away. These kids have lost their mother, and have lived their whole lives in the shadow of a devastating addiction. That's more than you're probably qualified to help them with.

Call the public schools, either the one nearest you or the district office, and just get that ball rolling. School starts soon and you want to have time to talk with the counselors/teachers/administration before Hailey goes to school. Ask them about preschool/daycare for the other kiddos. They can probably help you get started on that search. In our town, we have a therapeutic preschool for kids who've been through a trauma like these kids have experienced, so find out if there's something like that available. They might also be able to help you find some counselors or therapists who can be of help.

I would suggest that, other than a basic physical with your doctor, you hold off on any major decisions (i.e., vaccinations, circumcision, etc.) until later. You clearly want to make well-informed decisions, and you can take the time to do that. Yes, doctors/social workers/other "experts" would like to act as if these decisions must be made right now and will try to cause you to panic. It just ain't so. You deserve some time to make these decisions, and this is all way too new for you to be thinking clearly yet. Unless there is something genuinely life threatening happening, it can all wait. If they push you on the vaccines, remember, the chances that your kids will be exposed to Hep B or whooping cough in the next month are slim to none. If they tell you that the kids can't go to school/daycare until they're up to date, just ask for the religious exemption forms. Folks around here do it all the time, and even if you choose to vaccinate later, it will buy you some time to sort out what you really want. And I know that you'll get loads of advice/information at the circ board, but whatever you decide, a few months will make no difference.

Breathe, breathe, breathe. You want to do what's right for these children and for yourself, but you don't know what that is yet. It's going to take time to sort it all out. You have that time. Nothing needs to be decided today. Make them some organic mac and cheese for dinner, touch, hug, and love them as much as they're willing to let you, and get some help for all of you.

Oh, I highly suggest that you go to the "find your tribe" section of MDC and see if you can't find some mamas who live near you. You just might find a whole lot of what you need is very nearby. My hope is that you would find some people who would go shopping with you for carseats, talk to you with knowledge about schools and daycares in your area, share information about good pediatricians, and just help you with the nuts-and-bolts business of your new role. And who knows? Maybe you would find even more. The mamas here tend to be pretty darn generous, so it's worth a try.

I wish you the very best; please continue to post and let us know how we can help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Oh thank you all of you!
I did go to the circumcision board. I am so glad I did. It never ever occured to me that circumcision wasn't mandatory. I won't do that to him. No way. I thought it was the right thing to do to him, I am so glad I figured it out now!
As for their car seats, I am absolutely buying them new ones as soon as I leave work. I had one 'come hell or high water' meeting this morning and another one in about 20 minutes. They're at home now with a friend of mine. It's good, actually, to get out of the house and be able to research these things. I've decided to pick up two Britax Marathons on my way home today for Amy and Christine. Hailey can ride in the Turbo Booster I bought for Amy (yikes!) and I already bought a seat for Benny that I am definitely going to replace, but it will get him through for now. I plan on ordering a Britax Regent for Christine and putting Benny in the Marathon I buy today once it gets here, but I need seats NOW. Hailey will probably stay in the booster I already have unless she asks for something else.
I talked to our HR person who will get them on our insurance. My company pays 100% for employees and 50% for dependents, so it's only going to cost me about $150 a month for all four of them.
I live in Atlanta. I'll be contacting someone here about the legality of custody, what i need to do, etc. Right now it's on the bottom of my list, because no one is around to challenge me so I don't need to worry about it first and foremost.
I'll have to buy another vehicle, but haven't decided if I'll trade mine in yet. But I probably will. A 2 seat convertible is not exactly useful for a mother of four. But later I am going to see about getting a minivan or larger SUV from the rental agency, because right now one of the kids has to ride in front, and I don't want that.

I'm taking at least the next week off. I would have today but I HAD to be at this meeting. Plus it's good to actually have some time to decompress and research some things. This afternoon my main goal is car seats and a television. I bought a portable DVD player for the car just to keep them quiet on the ride home. I don't WANT a tv, but for now I think it's best not to fight it. They're used to tv 24/7, for now I'll leave it that way and weed it out slowly. Tomorrow they see the doctor and I need to get furniture. Right now Benny and Amy are sleeping with me and Christine and Hailey are sleeping on a futon in my office. I don't know if I will continue to live there, or move, or what. But I don't need to decide that right now. I also need to have an HIV test for Benny and Amy. Their mother was diagnosed in 2005 but I don't know when she was actually infected. I have health records for Christine and Hailey indicating that they are fine, and I am sure Benny and Amy are too, I just need to be certain.
I'm getting there. Right now I haven't even had time to think about it. I'm just on auto pilot and taking care of the tangibles. The rest will come later and I am sure that we will all come crashing down. But for now there is too much to be done to grieve.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by uptownzoo
I would suggest that, other than a basic physical with your doctor, you hold off on any major decisions (i.e., vaccinations, circumcision, etc.) until later. You clearly want to make well-informed decisions, and you can take the time to do that. Yes, doctors/social workers/other "experts" would like to act as if these decisions must be made right now and will try to cause you to panic. It just ain't so. You deserve some time to make these decisions, and this is all way too new for you to be thinking clearly yet.
:
 

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There are finding your tribe forums by area.

Please feel free to ask for help. A lot of women on here have access to a lot of resources- childcare, school, drs., research etc.

-Angela
 

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As I was reading about your lifestyle, it occurred to me how lucky these children are that they'll find someone who can demonstrate a healthy life for them. As long as you guide them, love them, and take an active roll in their lives, you'll be fine.

Good luck with all the practicalities (insurance, pediatricians, etc). Do you have friends with kids that can point you in the right direction for stuff in your area? I recommend putting out feelers for help. That's a lot of children in your lap with no previous experience.

I'm impressed with how it sounds like you're dealing and I'll definitely be pulling for you!

Hug those kids, they must be reeling right now!
 

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Wow - I'm so glad you're here. This place should be able to help answer most of the questions you have. I also hope you can connect with some other women in the Atlanta area to help you find a good all-natural oriented peditrician.

I very much admire what you're doing. I wish I lived closer to you because I'd find a way to help you out (I'm not in your state). Please post all questions, exhuasted rants, challenges or anything else you'd want to say. We're here to help and from reading how you live your life, this is a rather crunchy place that you will probably find fits well with your own views on things.

 

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I am so sorry for your loss. I am so glad that those kids have you now and I am sure you will do fine as a mama even though you didn't plan on it! You already sound like you are off to a good start. I am also really happy that you found this site, it really is a wealth of good information. Good luck and ask us anything!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by sophmama
Wow - I'm so glad you're here. This place should be able to help answer most of the questions you have. I also hope you can connect with some other women in the Atlanta area to help you find a good all-natural oriented peditrician.

I very much admire what you're doing. I wish I lived closer to you because I'd find a way to help you out (I'm not in your state). Please post all questions, exhuasted rants, challenges or anything else you'd want to say. We're here to help and from reading how you live your life, this is a rather crunchy place that you will probably find fits well with your own views on things.


:
 

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I also wanted to say.....

I know you said that you were previously childless by choice, which I respect, but I have to say that having children will not only be challenging, but also end up being the best/most rewarding thing you have ever done in your entire life.

So, make sure, in all the chaos, that you take time to stop and just enjoy those little ones.

(And I'd get them to a dentist in the next month or so. That's pretty "up there" on the list, especially if they've been eating junk food a lot.)
 

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Kathleen, I have goose bumps on my arms and tears in my eyes reading your posts. You have been thrown in the deep end, that's for sure, but you sound like one amazingly strong person!

ITA with the above posters that vaccination is something you can put off for a little bit while you get the more immediate fires put out. Esp. given that the kids' HIV status is uncertain (and if it were me I would have all 4 of them tested/retested just to be sure), so they're possibly immunocompromised, they've been eating crap, and I'm sure their stress levels are through the roof, you don't need to be adding on any immune challenges to their poor little bodies right now.

Sounds like you made some good choices with the Britax carseats - you really can't go wrong with Britax.


I hope it's OK, but I will cross-post this thread in the Finding Your Tribe section for Georgia to try to round up some local resources for you. Local parents will know the best peds, resources for finding counselling, childcare, etc.

Best of luck to you - this is going to be one heck of a ride for you and those kids. Although it's terrible that they have just lost their mother, they could not be luckier than to have you as their aunt.

And I'm so, so sorry for the loss of your sister.
 
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