Have you ever been in this situation? Figuring out how to help a child in need without crossing boundaries or destroying their home life can be a tricky subject. This father wanted to help his daughter’s new friend but was unsure of how to improve her life without accidentally making it so much worse. This is his story. Would you have done anything differently?
I’m a father of many kids, and my wife and I are separated. I’d like to think that I’m a good dad and that I know what I’m doing.
My kids have a 12 year old friend who is always down at our house. We feed her dinner probably 5 or 6 nights a week. She’ll get off the bus at our house, help with their chores, help with dinner prep and cleanup, and play with all the girls.
She used to have a lot of behavioral problems, but those have all but disappeared. We’ll usually take her back down the road to her house at 9PM, even on school nights, which is half an hour before my kids go to bed.
I don’t mind her being at our house at all. That’s not the issue. But my wife and I were starting to get really concerned about her.
Rumor is that her mom is a heroin addict…
My kids explain that her parents are divorcing and forcing her to choose which parent she wants to live with. She won’t let me in on what her home life is like, but only says she doesn’t like to be at home. She always looks so sad when we tell her it’s time to go home.
Her mom never calls and checks in on her, not even when she never went home after school, it’s 8:3o, and she hasn’t eaten dinner.
What’s worrying, is that on the weekends, my older 3 go to their biological moms for the weekend, and only my 3 year old is here. But that little girl still comes over. It’s Saturday morning and she was at our house at 10AM.
She ran errands with us to pay rent and go to the bank. She’s having a squirt gun fight with my toddler and playing hide and seek. She wants to go running with me later and run errands another town.
We really want to have this kid sleep over during school nights, to give her a better chance. She’s 12 and in the 5th grade, which is unusual in this area. She’s got 22 days of missed school so far this year and has failing grades.
She stays up until 1AM every night and is late a few times a week because her mom won’t make her go to school. If she was here, she would at least be in bed by 9:3o and make it to school on time. We could help her with homework. We already have increased her manners, and increased her nutrition. She used to look undernourished, and now is looking healthy and growing. We buy her clothes and pass down my kids clothes when they outgrow them.
Our plan was to keep her overnight every few nights. She showed up today wearing the same clothes she’s had on for 4 days. Those are currently being washed and dried here.
She called her mom for permission to sleepover tonight on a school night. I listened in on the other phone, which was maybe wrong of me to do, but I wanted to hear this mother. Her mom didn’t even have to think about her answer and responded in a slurred “I don’t care.”
We fed her lunch all weekend, and dinner since last Wednesday. I think we’ll do every other night sleeping over as permitted. And keep looking for proof of abuse to get her out of the house and into our home. I don’t care about getting financial aid for child support; feeding one more mouth isn’t that hard to feed when you typically feed 6 people. And I can save money to get her clothes here no issue.
But that was the plan. Make friends with her mom to get into the house and double check conditions. Have her sleep over regularly with permission. And keep doing what we’re doing to keep her life as stable as we can.
I’d like to think that we were only doing what anyone else in this situation would do.
Two weeks ago, we called up social and family services.
We didn’t want to take the girl away from her mom, but it was clear that her mom had a problem and wasn’t capable of looking after her daughter. The social services officers, along with the police, made a trip to her house where they found her mom completely intoxicated. The house was mess, with empty bottles of booze all over the house. One of the officers told me that the mom hadn’t paid her rent in months and was on the verge of being kicked out by her landlady.
The good news is that they’ve offered to let me become a foster parent to the girl, and my wife and I have agreed to take her into custody. She doesn’t have any grandparents or relatives who live in our state, and when we asked her if what she would want, she said she would love to live with us. My wife and I both cried when she said that. We are meeting with a lawyer this week to finalize the details and she will soon become a permanent addition to our family. Our kids couldn’t be happier to have her as their new sibling.
“Family” doesn’t always mean what we think it does. For his children, “family” meant their new step-mom, their dad, and their adopted sister. To him, “family” meant people who love each other and look out for their best interests. I wish this new family the best, and I hope it all works out okay for everyone involved. Hopefully this little girl’s mom can get the help she needs. I don’t think I would have done anything differently.
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