New Here, But I'm Sure Not a New Situation

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Sister's Keeper, Feb 9, 2016.

  1. Sister's Keeper

    Sister's Keeper Active Member

    I've been reading a lot. I have a different situation, and I'm not sure if this is a parenting issue or a substance abuse issue, but it is a little of both.

    This will be long, bu way of background and I apologize in advance.

    I have a sister who is a year younger. She is an addict, her drug of choice is heroin, though she won't say no to crack, either.

    We have the same mother, different fathers. Mother is an addict/alcoholic. When I was in the 3rd grade and Sis in the 2nd we were removed from our mother's home for neglect. I went to live with my father/stepmother, my sister with our maternal aunt, who is mothers partying buddy. My sister's custody was in name only, she mostly was in the "care" of our mother. When we were initially removed my father offered to take us both, but since he wasn't a biological relative the CPS wouldn't allow it. My sister and I had VERY different childhoods. I have always felt guilty about this. My sister was neglected and abused sexually by a boyfriend of mother's.

    Fast forward to adulthood, my sister has, basically, spent her entire adult life in and out of jail. Mostly for shoplifting. She get clean in jail, has a month or 2 of clean time after she is out and then relapses. When not in jail, she has been, essentially, homeless for the last 3.5 years.

    So here is where the story really starts. 4 years ago she gave birth to a baby girl who was addicted to heroin. When the baby tested positive after birth CPS removed her and was going to place her in foster care. Sis also has 2 older boys who were in the custody of Baby Daddy's grandmother. Sis swears they all have the same father, but Little Girl looks nothing like her brothers, and I know that Sis prostitutes. Well, Granny decided that she could not handle a baby, and an addicted one at that, so I stepped in and took custody of all 3 kids to keep them together. The boys were 5 and 4 at the time. Stupidly, I let Sis stay here, too, to recover. Things were okay for a few months, then she relapsed and stole from us, so I threw her out, and told her she was never welcome here again.

    As a digression, I did a lot of enabling. Paid bail, for methadone, for rehabs, gave housing, money, phones, anytime I refused the fact that my childhood was "normal" and hers a hellhole was thrown in my face. My enabling nearly ruined my marriage. It took a long time to get to that point.

    Now, fast forward to today. I have had legal custody of the kids for 4 years. They are, pretty much, doing fine. Little Girl has some delays, probably due to drug exposure, nothing major and she has been in early intervention and speech therapy. Older brother has ADHD, but is bright and is doing well on Intuniv. Middle brother is typical. The only interaction the kids have with Sis is occasional cards when she is in jail.

    ....and she is in jail, again. Apparently, this time, the judge is sick of her. Instead of her usual 30, 60, 90 day sentence for shoplifting she is looking at 5 years in state prison. She was offered a drug program where she does an 18 month inpatient rehab and the remainder of the sentence intensive outpatient treatment and vocational rehab, or a 5 year prison sentence. She had the damn nerve to tell her public defender that she will take the 5 year sentence because she, "is not ready to stop getting high."

    I'm done. Completely done. I sent her a long letter explaining to her exactly how I felt. Telling her I loved her and I know the sweet sensitive person that she is under the drugs, but that I can no longer live my life in limbo, and I wished her the best.

    We filed to legally adopt the kids. I have given up hope that she will ever get her life together and be a mother to them. This where the :censored2: storm (excuse my language begins) I got a very unpleasant letter from her about stealing her kids, again guilting me about the abuse she suffered as a kid, "while I lived like a princess with dance lessons and trips to Disney World she was being raped." Now she has no reason to ever get clean. All stops pulled out. I have very little contact with my maternal family. Christmas and birthday cards. The occasional text when they want something. Now, I have been bombarded with texts and phone calls about how horrible I am and how Sis will never get her act together (funny from 2 addicts) because she doesn't even have getting her kids back to look forward to. Oh, and the cherry on the sundae.... she is pregnant, again, and assumed I would take this baby, too, until she got out of prison. I told everyone that I am done. That, I'm sorry, but the baby will have to go into foster care, I cannot emotionally or financially support another child (I have 2 of my own in addition to her 3) and I changed my phone number.

    Well, finally, here is my real issue. Now that we are going through the adoption process Older Brother has so many questions about his mother. He is 9 and I am not sure of the level of explanation I should give him. When they were younger we explained that she was "sick" and couldn't take care of them, which they understood for a while. We have now broached the subject of drugs and addiction. We are trying to explain how drugs affect her and that she may never be able to stop using drugs. We tell them that we love them and that we want to make our family "forever and official." As an aside, all these kids have been raised as brothers and sisters and all are loved and treated equally.

    This has brought up a lot of questions in older brother about his mother and does she love him, and why does she think drugs are more important than him, and will she ever be his mom again. We've tried to explain that she does love him, but the drugs have affected her mind, and that we don't know if she will ever get better, etc. I don't want to give him false hope. The younger 2 don't seem to be as emotionally affected, mostly because I think Middle Son has few clear memories of Sis and Little Girl has none. We have appointments for some more counseling, but they are the 1st week of March.

    I'm hoping that someone here has some insight about how to discuss this subject. Daily he has so many questions. I don't want to demonize his mother. I love my sister, she is truly a sweet, sensitive, caring soul underneath the demon of addiction, but I also don't want to give them false hope that she will ever get better. I don't want him to spend his life wishing for something that will probably never come true.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think you said the right things. My son is adopted and his birth mother was a drug addict. I told him she was sick and that addiction is an illness. I also tell him that underneath her illness im sure she is wonderful because he is. My son is now 22 and has a form of high functional autism but a happier, sweeter young man id never met. He also lives independently. I would just emphasize that she has an illness and about her like she is bad. She is part of their identity.
    Good luck and bless your heart.
  3. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    :welcomecat: Welcome, Sister's keeper.
    I think that is the best explanation you can give.

    My husband was mentally ill. I couldn't hide it from the kids since they were witnessing his behaviors firsthand. I never lied to them. I told them that he was "sick in his mind." I think it is very important that the kids hear that the love is still there even if the parent cannot show it due to illness or addiction. Don't forget to reassure the boy that nothing he did caused his mother to be "addicted or ill," however you phrase it. Sometimes kids think they did something wrong to drive the parent away.

    I'm sure you can find the right words to answer his questions. No, you don't want to demonize your sister. There is still a chance that she will straighten out her life. Five years is a long time to think.

    I'm so glad the children are with you. I'm sorry for your sister's life difficulties, but YOU were not the cause of those.
  4. Sister's Keeper

    Sister's Keeper Active Member

    Thank you.

    I know that, intellectually, but emotionally, the guilt is always there. She knows it, too, because when she is desperate it gets thrown at me. It has been a long road to get to the point where I don't let it affect me. She had my life in turmoil for some time. THAT was my fault for allowing it.

    I really want what is best for the kids, and I think a forever home is it. I need them to know that whatever happens with their mother that we love them and always will and they will always have a home and family. I owe my own stepmother a huge debt for being a mother to me when my own couldn't be bothered. It, probably, saved my life.

    My sister is a career inmate, and a good one at that. She chose this option because she knows she wont do 5 years. Probably a year and a half, tops. She will get a prison job and earn commissary money and, honestly, she is a model prisoner, and will get all kinds of good behavior time off her sentence. She is, underneath it all, a very sweet and loving person. She throws the guilt stuff in my face, but when she cleans up, she always apologizes. She has never, ever been violent toward another person in her life. All her crimes are shoplifting and prostitution.

    I'm actually almost sad to say this, but her quality of life would actually improve if she spent the rest of her life in prison. She actually does well there.

    I came across this board on a random internet search. I was sure, after reading a lot of the stories that there must be some folks here raising non bio kids of addicted parents. That could give me some advice, or, at least, the right way to phrase this. We have been in counseling a lot, and will go back, but in the interim....

    I have a coworker raising her grandkids for the same reason, but they are older and they know their mother is a drug addict. Her scary story is that they called her from a crack house after her daughter got arrested and she had to go to the crack house to pick them up.
  5. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    She tries to make you feel guilty, because she would really like to be more like you. In her heart, she would like to be a mother to her children and have a calm life. She is simply too addicted, to the drugs, the drama, the excitement, the danger, the instability of her own life to break free.
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    You are a hero to your kids. YOUR kids. They will always be sad that their birthmother was dysfunctional. Im sure all adopted kids have that sadness to differing degrees. But you are who they will consider their mom figure. They will go to you when they need a mom. You will be special in their hearts even if your sister one day cleans up. You are one of lifes angels.
    People like you make me smile.
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  7. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    My response isn't exactly what you are asking for, but my two cents... How were you allowed to have biomom at your house when you were given custody of the kids? I assume the children are in state custody until you adopt. That means, unless she signed off on her parental rights, there will have to be a court case to terminate the rights. If they are in state custody, the state usually pays a monthly stipend to cover their care and also their medical insurance. Have you talked to the social workers involved about continuing these benefits until they are adults?

    If she fights the adoption, will this be a long drawn out ordeal?

    I ask because when we adopted our two granddaughters, we did not receive any of their benefits, because the court made it a private adoption. Once they became teens, the problems really started with behaviors and difficulty at school. My kids needed more help than we could really afford.

    Please plan ahead in case you have difficulty later. Our girls biomom also drank, used heroin and cocaine. Their older brother was addicted at birth. He has actually done better than the ones she mostly drank alcohol during the pregnancy.

    I admire all you are doing and not trying to put a damper on the future, but you will see on these boards that many kids seem to have more problems when puberty hits. My two girls have emotional problems because of the poor relationship with their mom. Now they tend to form poor social relationships. They get taken advantage of because they don't feel worthy to set their standards higher.

  8. Sister's Keeper

    Sister's Keeper Active Member

    The boys paternal great-grandmother had legal custody of them before they came to live with us. Dad is an addict, too. She willingly signed over custody to us. She was elderly and 2 young boys were really more than she can handle.

    When Little Girl was born and tested positive my sister was given the choice to either sign over legal custody of Little Girl to us or she would go into foster care. My sister is one, hot drug addicted mess, but she isn't stupid or cruel, she knew that giving us custody was in Little Girl's best interest. There was never any court order that said she wasn't allowed contact with the kids. I was hoping that being with her kids would give her impetus to get herself together if she was in a family environment. I was wrong.

    Little Girl was in NICU for 20 days. She wasn't home maybe 2-3 weeks before I realized Sis was using again after she stole from us, so I put her out.

    I have legal custody of the kids. I have their state benefits, which, frankly, suck, especially in regards to counseling and psychiatric care. My husband is a state employee. His benefits are very good.

    Since bio dad and Sis signed over legal custody of all the children, and since neither has made minimal (Sis, a random birthday or Christmas card when she is in jail) or no attempt (bio dad) to be a part of the children's lives in the past 4 years, and they have lived in a stable home since then, the legal proceeding should be fairly straight forward.

    Plus Sis will be in prison, hard to really protest from there, and bio dad hasn't been heard from in over a year. She is protesting now, but if I know her, rather than mount any type legal process she will probably, in the end, sign off. Follow through isn't exactly her greatest skill.
  9. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    My husband is retired government, so we have pretty good insurance too. But if you can keep the state insurance for the kids to pick up the copays or deductibles for your insurance, it is good. I know the state TANF benefits aren't great, but having a few extra bucks is good. It would have allowed us to pay for tutors, or sports, dance classes, etc.

    I hope I wasn't being too nosey, but you never know what the future will bring. KSM