The newest member of my family is my niece Ariana, she will be seven years old next month. I have taken temporary custody of her instead of allowing DCF to take her. My sister was very young when she had her and well, never really grew up. It’s not the first time I have tried to step in and take her because she was not in a safe healthy environment. My sister finally realized this was her last chance to remain involved in her daughter’s life.
When my sister was pregnant she admitted to me she used drugs and drank this most likely has directly affected her growth and health, according to the doctor. That in combination to the environment she was being raised in. Ariana is very small only reaching the 3rd percentile on the growth charts for weight and height. My sister did not physically abuse her but was never around and when she was her mind was elsewhere. She would leave her with my mother sometimes for days. They rarely sent her to school, and did not provide adequate nutrition to properly care for her. She is the size of your average 4-5 year old. She was in an environment where she received minimal attention and was given things just to keep her preoccupied and it seemed the only thing she had control over was eating and that became an issue.
We are on week 3 of Ariana living with us and I think it’s going great considering the circumstances. She had a horrible cough from all the smoking around her. While they swear no one smoked in the house maybe they could explain why I had to wash her laundry three consecutive times to get the cigarette stench out of them. I took her to her doctor the first week and she was given antibiotics and albuterol. I just took her back last week and the doctor said he had never seen her so happy or healthy. She gained over a pound and her coughing has slowly reduced about 50%.
The first few days Ariana did not want to eat anything I prepared. All she wanted was cereal, crackers, cookies and Pediasure. She kept telling me she did not “like it” every time I was preparing a meal. She would start to cry and say her tummy hurt to get out of eating. Well, that did not work with me, my reply to her was that her tummy hurt because she was hungry. She now asks me for bananas, apples, PB&J’s and even turkey sandwiches and condiments are a must. These are all items she was refusing to eat. Now she is hungry all the time! I sat her down and talked to her about how important it is to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables because she could not understand why I did not have soda’s or sweets and only “fruits and stuff”. We agreed that she would try before she turns it away.
We did have some aggression issues towards Elyas where she was punching him and I caught her hitting Sophie once. She never had chores or structure let alone a routine so she does not like to do much, but she is very smart and is adjusting nicely. In my house the kids have to put away their own laundry, of course I do all the hard work of folding and sorting it. The first time I asked her to put it away she seemed excited and said “oh I have laundry, too” but then threw it in her cabinet and walked away. I called her back to fix it and we discussed why we have to be organized. She likes for me to explain why a lot and that’s ok.
She is absolutely happy! She is aware that her mommy is sick and she will be living with me for a long while so that her mommy can get healthy again. My sister and I are in contact frequently and does come visit her but we have had to limit because of behavioural episodes when she is here. My sister stopped by last night to drop off some more stuff and she asked Ariana if she was happy here and she said “Yes”. My sister and I are open and honest and she is cooperating in every way. I am proud she has taken the first step in putting her child’s needs before her’s. It’s only the first step in a very long road but I’m praying for her that she stays focused because the hardest moments in this process are still to come.
It’s amazing how much structure, attention and a routine can change a child’s life. As hard as my life can be I know I made the right decision for all of our sake. It’s a beautiful thing to see a child thrive and live life happily. And I get to make it happen for her!