How do I help my niece?


New Member
First let me say I’m happy to have found this board and sad to see so many people that are dealing with these problems. I’m not a parent, I’m an aunt - I hope that that won’t be a problem.
My 14 year old niece, let’s call her Jessie, is obviously in some kind of trouble and my sister, her mom, is doing her best to ignore it, and I don’t know what to do.
Background: Jessie was adopted as a baby from overseas where she lived in an orphanage. My sis and her family moved to this town two years ago and Jessie was practically mourning her old life in their old place. She had trouble making friends here and eventually when she did, they turned out to be the class troublemakers. Jessie changed a lot since then. She started having wild mood swings, crying spells, fighting. Whenever we’d visit, we knew that if she’s around there’s going to be drama. She was sent to several different therapists who diagnosed all kinds of stuff but the situation just doesn’t improve. As time went by her grades dropped and her behavior got worse and things started disappearing. I didn’t really make the connection back then but Jessie also asked me for money with all kinds of stories (church youth group fundraiser, etc.) and I feel dumb writing this but I did give her some money until I got suspicious and stopped.
I told my sister that I think Jessie’s using drugs but sis is in total denial and will do nothing about it. Now Jessie’s about to get suspended (for too many unexcused absences - how is suspension supposed to be punishment for a kid who skips school?). My sis feels sorry for Jessie because “she started her life at an orphanage, of course she’s having a hard time, we shouldn’t be too hard on her”.
I’m afraid this kid is going to end up in jail or on the streets because her parents just choose to ignore what’s going on, but since I’m her aunt there’s not much that I can do. I’m hoping to get some ideas for things that I can do that I might not have considered, before things get worse. thank you.


Well-Known Member
I think the best thing you can do is try to be an active part of her life. To be an adult she can talk to.

How old was she when she was adopted? Many children who have been adopted have difficulties, some from prenatal drug and alcohol abuse, others from neglect and not forming appropriate bonds of attachment.

About age 14 was when my granddaughters started having major problems. We adopted them at age 5 and 7 but they went in to foster care at 3 and 5. Their biomom drank and used drugs prenatally. Both were treated for anxiety and depression when they were young teens. The older has now been diagnosed with bipolar.

It's hard, once they have made insppropriate friends, to be accepted by other teen groups. I wish I could have cultivated more activities in to my adopted grands lives, but they weren't athletic or interested in sports. We did do several years in community and children theater and were active in church youth groups. But they usually self sabatoged in groups. Their peer groups moved on to further education and service orientated activities. Now, they are graduating from universities and mine are still struggling, and not making any real progress.

Try to keep being a part of your nieces life. Try to find things you can do together, like volunteering in the community. You might read up on attachment disorders and FASD. Try to friend her on social media so you can be aware of what's going on.

Good luck...the next few years might get bumpier... Ksm


New Member
Thank you. I am trying to be a part of her life. But right now... even keeping in touch with her is difficult. She changes her number often, and most of the time is out with her friends. And she's still angry at me for not giving her money. We used to be very close when she was younger. That's one of the ways in which she changed for the worse. I do keep trying, though.

Jessie was very young when she was adopted, only 10 months old. We don't know anything about her bio family because she was abandoned, but my sister and her husband had her tested for all kinds of things and there was no evidence of prenatal exposure. She used to be involved in many activities - horseback riding and taekwondo and other things, until she met that particular group of kids. Spending all her time with them has been the only activity she's been involved in since. Before she completely shut me out for not giving her anymore money she told me she sometimes tells her mom she goes to a friend's for a sleepover when they actually spend the night "partying". I told my sister about that - I felt it was my obligation - but she blew it off.

It's just so frustrating seeing this kid destroying herself - I've never caught her in the act but everything points to her using drugs - and her mom just saying stuff like "Jessie's too smart to use drugs. She's just going through a phase". I'm afraid we'll end up in the same place in 6 years.

Nothing to do but keep trying... I just hope her parents wake up before it's too late.


Well-Known Member
Hi and welcome, Aunt

It is a frustrating situation, because you have very little power and your sister refuses to deal with reality.

Is your niece in counseling? Would your sister be open to taking her?


New Member
She is in counseling, and has been for the past year. But it's as if the counselors can't really reach her. She's been through several of them. She also openly told me she often lies to them to keep them from telling her parents about things she does.


Well-Known Member
Hi. I am sorry about your niece.

You can do one great thing for a wonderful aunt, which you sound like you are.