My 8 yr old niece has recently come to live with my husband and I, along with our three young sons, ages 3, 6, and 7. My sister is an alcoholic, who can't seem to get her life in order. She got arrested for a DUI a couple years ago, and violated her probation by not attending the meetings, and had the option of going to jail or rehab (for a 2nd time), so she chose rehab. I offered to take in my niece, (as I did last time she was in rehab) since the father isn't in the picture, and the rest of my family doesn't involve themselves in any helpful way whatsoever. So, the plan was to take care of her during the month she was at rehab.
However, when my sister talked to her counselor, she strongly suggested she go to a halfway home after rehab, to try and stay out of trouble, because if she gets in trouble one more time, she goes to jail for the original full term. This halfway home had the option of mothers taking their children with them, but I, seeing many problems that were not being addressed with my niece, offered to keep her with us. My sister agreed it was best, so she could make it to all her mandatory meetings, appointments, and be able to work.
My niece, who was in special education in school, was taken out to be homeschooled at the beginning of the year, because she was being bullied at public school. I homeschool my own children, (not for religious fanatic reasons), and so my sister decided to homeschool her too.. and so I, now being her educator, see how far behind she is. She should be in 3rd grade, and she is just barely above kindergarten level in math, reading, spelling.. she frequently confuses "d" and "b" and writes letters backwards often.. and she has the emotional maturity of maybe a 4 yr old.
When she first came to live with us, she attacked my 6 yr old a couple of times, she threw temper tantrums, and was very aggressive, and was constantly lying. But we were very patient with her, because we understood the poor girl has been through a lot.
She now visits her mom every weekend in the halfway home, as we have arranged. She calls her whenever she wants, and her mom calls her too.. and for the most part it has been working out. My niece, in the two months she's been here, has been able to see what it's like to live in a real family life, where we actually pick up after ourselves, and use manners, and laugh and learn and spend healthy, quality time together. She stopped acting out, she's improved her reading level to 1st grade at least, and she's actually happy here.
So, the plan is for my sister to keep doing what she's doing, get the help she needs, get her life in order, so she can have her daughter back. However, a couple different people that are friends with her, contacted me to tell me they are worried about her. They said she was sneaking alcohol into the halfway home, that she has done this 4 times since she moved in, and that she was looking for drugs, etc. All this would land her in jail! But she also said, while drunk, that if she got caught, she would not go to jail, because she would kill herself. This scared me, because almost a decade ago, she was in the hospital for trying to kill herself before. I called a couple professionals, who all directed me to call the police, to escort her to the hospital, and I didn't want to do that because I felt like she would never forgive me for causing her to go to jail. So instead my husband and I kept an eye on her to make sure she didn't do anything stupid.. and she didn't. Later when I confronted her about all this, she was adamant that it was untrue, and that she did have the one relapse, but she has been going to AA meetings every day...
Where I'm at now... Do I file for custody? Will she get better? I'm two people right now, I'm split right down the middle. I'm her biggest cheerleader, and I'm also waiting for her to screw up one more time so I can file those papers.
I really need help. I don't even know who to call for advice around my town. I need advice on dealing with an alcoholic, on helping her daughter cope... Also, I don't know what to do about my niece's extremely needy behaviors. She asks for a hug about 30 times a day. I have a toddler, I have young children, I'm already stretched pretty thin, and she has no grasp for poor timing either. She will ask for a hug when I'm cooking, when I'm doing 8 other things already, when my 3 yr old is demanding my attention, when I'm right in the middle of talking.. I know it sounds sweet, and I'm aware that she's looking for reassurance and attention, and I probably sound like a monster but it's really hard to handle. And it's never a quick hug either, it's always a pull me down, squeeze until I say "ok" sort of thing. I want to have her evaluated by a doctor, but I have zero authority since I have no legal rights. I couldn't even make her a dentist appointment. I tried.
So anything I can get advice on, please, I'm all ears. (eyes)