Her grades dropped and she barely passed. Her attendance was sporadic and during a Thanksgiving Day visit, I noticed scars and scabs up and down Nicolette's arms. When I asked why, she broke down and told me about the situation she was dealing with at home. Her mother, my daughter, was not taking care of her younger brother & sister, ages 3 & 1. Nicolette, being the compassionate and caring individual that she is, was compelled to stay home from school some days to make sure the children were being fed and their diapers changed. She told me that sometimes her mother would disappear for 8 to 10 hours and leave Nicolette at the age of 12 to care for her brother & sister. She told me that sometimes there was no food in the house for days and when there was food, she would try to feed her brother & sister instead of eat herself. Nicolette explained how her mother would sleep for hours and that she did not even wake up when the babies cried.
At this point in Nicolette's life, her mother could be described as a functioning addict and had successfully hid the addiction from her family, employer & friends. Nicolette, at her young age had no idea what was wrong with her mother. After confronting my daughter numerous times and being told nothing was wrong, I contacted Protective Services. After 6 months of being told that Protective Services could find nothing wrong(addicts find creative ways to explain away problems), I contacted Nicolette's father, and she left my daughter's care. The 2 younger children, however, remained in my daughter's care.
Without Nicolette to help, her mother quickly began a downward spiral and was soon evicted from her home. Contact with my daughter and the younger 2 children became almost non existent. Friends reported seeing my daughter panhandling with the kids in the van in the middle of the winter. We were also told that my daughter & the 2 younger children were living in her van. Nicolette continued to worry about her brother & sister and this continued to negatively affect her grades and her emotional stability. It was at this point that Nicolette and I made a deal. If Nicolette would concentrate on school & therapy, I would do whatever was necessary to make sure her brother & sister were safe.
While I began fighting the "system" to obtain guardianship of her younger brother & sister, Nicolette forged ahead. She attended therapy and is no longer harming herself. She has learned coping techniques to deal with stress & anxiety. She has been a member of the National Honor Society through her entire 4 years of High School. She joined ROTC, participated in the Choir and as soon as she became old enough began working at the local McDonalds. I am proud to say that Nicolette graduated high school June 7, 2017 with Magna Cum Laude behind her name. Nicolette has been awarded a 4 year $20000 scholarship to a local university. The scholarship only covers tuition and Nicolette needs help with her housing & food expenses which are about $8000 per semester.
Nicolette has taken her income from McDonalds and tried to prepare herself for college. She has purchased a lap top on her own and put together a savings account. But as we all know, McDonalds does not pay enough especially when working part time, to pay for college. I am not able to help financially due to the costs of supporting Nicolette's younger brother & sister. I have depleted my savings with attorney & court costs and cannot tap into my 401K because Nicolette is not considered a direct dependent. Please help make Nicolette's dream of attending college a reality. Nicolette wants to study Psychology & Criminal Justice.
I have put this post together on the premise that "it takes a whole village to raise a child". Please be my village and help me help my granddaughter.
- Elaine Schuster
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