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Taking in a 16 year old girl (DH's cousin) who is moving from the USA and who we have never met before. HELP!

(111 Posts)
bluebellsanddaffodils Wed 26-Sep-12 20:37:34

I can't believe I've typed this title, it sounds utterly insane, but somehow it's starting to seem like the right thing to do.

DH's aunt (along with her husband and two DDs) moved to the USA 13 years ago and ended up staying illegally. The girls have grown up, the eldest is early twenties with two kids but can't go to college or work without a social security number. It's not a good, productive or happy life for her. The younger DD2 (16 years) is part way through high school and doesn't want to end up like her sister, finishing school and having no future.

Her half brother, here in England has offered her a home if she wanted to move home and do her GCSEs and start a new life, while her parents and sister scrape and save enough for passports and airfare back to England for them all to start over. The family saved for her passport which arrived last week, and under the impression that she had a new life lined up and ready to go, we paid her airfare so that she could start school ASAP, as it's already nearly the end of Sept.

It now emerges that the DD2's half brother has been in touch with the family and said that they haven't actually sorted a school place yet, they won't be able to help her financially, they work 60 hrs a week each so won't be able to help her study/spend time with her and she'll have to walk everywhere as they'll be out with the cars. They also are really tight for cash and can't help with allowance - not even toiletries. She's expected to get a weekend job immediately and fund anything that's not rent & food.

She is 16, is leaving her family not knowing when she'll see them again, she hasn't been in the UK since she was 3, she has no friends, and I think it'll be really hard for her to balance a new education system, a new school, being behind with study AND work at weekends. I also think it'll be really hard for her to find a job.

I can't believe the adults taking care of her allowed this situation to develop. Perhaps her half-brother didn't think this would actually happen, and he made empty promises?

Either way, even though her parents and half-bro have been terribly foolish, at the end of this is a scared teenage girl with no friends, no money and a lot of work ahead of her. I have never met her, and neither has my DH but we're seriously considering taking her in until her family can get back to the UK.


I have two DSs (22 mths and 12 weeks) and my husband works away a lot. We have a healthy household income and a spare bedroom. We have good local schools and good transport links into 3 cities. From the online contact we've had for a few years she seems a good kid, really into her sports, very popular, hard-working.

HOWEVER, I am worried that I don't know how to deal with a teenager, particularly one who isn't mine. I.e. what if she moved here, fell in with a bad crowd and started skipping school/breaking curfew?

Basically, I think what I'm asking is....if you were going to take in a teenager who was far away from her parents (a good kid, polite, will probably find it terribly hard to adjust, but hopefully not too hard to make friends) and help them improve their life and prospects......what rules/conditions would you put in place? And would you also expect them to contribute to chores - and to what extent?

I know this is a strange situation and you will probably have more questions for me.... but I need to start seeking advice from somewhere, and where better than mumsnet?

I don't even know what I'll do about school, if we decide to take her in. Can I call a local school and explain the situation and expect them to take a student 5 weeks into an academic year?

My mind is boggling at the amount of admin this may require....
thanks for listening.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 26-Sep-12 20:51:09

I don't think you're mad, you sound lovely.

Can you liaise with her parents to find out what sort of rules they'd expect, etc. she should definetly help out with chores at 16. Doing the dishwasher, keeping her room tidy, the odd bit of hoovering.

If she breaks rules then deal with it then. Hopefully she won't misbehave. But if she does treat her like she is your child. If you're not sure how to deal with a specific situation then come here and ask. A friend of mine took in her teenage nieces and it all worked out well.

The local school will accept her if they have space.

How's she going to cope with gcses though with less than a year to go? Wouldn't they have been better off letting her do her high school diploma there?

bluebellsanddaffodils Wed 26-Sep-12 20:58:04

She is the age for year 12 but she would have to come here and start at the beginning of year 10 and do two years-ish before GCSEs. I agree on timing of diploma.... reasoning seems to have disappeared in this situation.

I will certainly ask her mum about rules, but would probably go with an "under my roof" type approach..

slambang Wed 26-Sep-12 21:05:30

I don't think a school would allow her to start in year 10 if she was year 12 age. And most schools would probably try not to accept a child midway through GCSEs unless they had no option. (so the 'good' schools would most likely claim to have no psace

slambang Wed 26-Sep-12 21:07:04


bluebellsanddaffodils Wed 26-Sep-12 21:08:53

So are we looking at a college perhaps? thanks for all replies

numptymark1 Wed 26-Sep-12 21:10:53

you might be better approaching a FE college to do GCSEs

i would be suprised if a school would drop her back to year 10 and it would make it very difficult for her socially, there is a lot of growing up between 14 & 16

slambang Wed 26-Sep-12 21:12:51

The more I think about it the more it seems that school is going to be the major hurdle. I think before you worry about teenager's rules you need to check out if any local school would accept her.
Due to the modular GCSE system it would be impossible to pick up GCSE at this stage in Year 12. Wouldn't it make more sense for her to start the sixth form and begin new A level courses with everyone else in September 2013?

thewhistler Wed 26-Sep-12 21:16:19

Go to the citizens advice bureau and also Google the local authority rules. You might also find it helpful to get a city I'd her birth certificate etc. She will be at the limits if the mandatory period of education but the local authority will have advice.

As she is under 18 check out what the rules are around having a guardian or you being nominated as a responsible adult, as social services may be involved by the la. But she could also be entitled to some financial support. Again, check between the Cab and the la.

bluebellsanddaffodils Wed 26-Sep-12 21:17:30

So do you think it'd be best to keep her out of school for home study until next Sept?

would she be able to study a-level without having gcses?

Himalaya Wed 26-Sep-12 21:18:12

I don't think you are mad at all. I would focus on making her feel welcome and getting her settled in.

On chores the main thing would be for her to be self sufficient - tidy own room, do own laundry, clean up any mess she makes in the kitchen, but at the same time feels comfortable hanging out with the family and doing things with you (and helping out some).

On rules, the main thing his for her to be safe.

In my experience American teens are less streetwise and mature than British kids in some ways, more ernest and enthused. But I guess it varies from place to place.

Schools are usually loathe to take kids outside of their year group. She will probably need to go to the local college where she could do a mix of GCSEs and ASs

Himalaya Wed 26-Sep-12 21:25:14

I would get her into school/college - it is important socially. Schools deal with kids arriving from other countries at all different times of the year, some with no English at all. The college should be able to work out some combination of GCSEs she can do in a year, and then some more, or AS etc...

US high school diploma is about GCSE level btw, A level are more like the first year of university (or at least it was when I was at school).

slambang Wed 26-Sep-12 21:27:44

Can't she stay in the states until summer?

bluebellsanddaffodils Wed 26-Sep-12 21:35:11

she's in the air now...

VivaLeBeaver Wed 26-Sep-12 21:41:23


She's on a plane?

Have you decided if you're having her or not? Does she know where she's going to be living?

slambang Wed 26-Sep-12 21:44:48

Oh crikey!

Well, I imagine she'd benefit from school if only for social reasons and legally a school place should be offered to her, although you probably wont get much choice and may have to battle hard.

I'd say get onto the LEA tomorrow morning, get her into something somewhere and look on it as acclimatising before starting college next year.

I'm a bit surprised that she's being sent over before her education has all been sorted if that was the prime reason for her not staying in the US. confused

NonnoMum Wed 26-Sep-12 21:45:13

If she happened to have turned 16 since Sept 1st, she wold be eligible to be in Year 11. (unlikely I know).
Try and get her into some sort of school system asap.
You might find there is more help out there then you realise - I think the Local Authority would be interested as what you are doing is something like 'kinship fostering' (I might be wrong, and this might not apply over 16).
TBH she sounds like she is coming from a bit of a chaotic background and will need all the help she can get.
Good luck for all of you.

juneau Wed 26-Sep-12 21:54:05

Bloody hell! Am I the only one who is shocked to the core that this child's parents would just bung her on a plane without knowing anything about where she'll be living, who with, what kind of situation she's coming to, no school arranged, etc?

OP you sound lovely and I wish you well. I have no experience of teens (beyond having been one myself - a long time ago!), but I think you're really great for stepping into the breach like this. The poor girl needs someone to step up, but with two under two you've already got your hands full. What a strange family you've married into though. The mother of this girl must be mind-numbingly irresponsible.

bluebellsanddaffodils Wed 26-Sep-12 21:56:19

Yes, she just took off I believe. her half brother is collecting her and she is going home with him, I just have a feeling it won't work out for her as they don't sound equipped practically, emotionally or financially to deal with her and support her.
we haven't offered anything, we're still talking it over (and over and over).

She is nearly 17 (in a few weeks)

Slambang I know - I can't believe they sent her without every detail being in place. I think they saw a chance to get her to the UK and grabbed it and thought it'd get figured out somehow....

I think they're nice people but badly informed.

argh, i don't know what is the right thing to do - i'm a sucker for the emotional side. i can't bear to think of her distress sad but also, i don't want to be taken advantage of and end up housing a teenage girl for a couple of years if her family can't sort themselves out

Himalaya Wed 26-Sep-12 21:57:04

I don't think you have to register with the LA if she is over 16.

She will probably a bit shell shocked and homesick in the first weeks. Try to go on a few purposeful errands ASAP to make connections for her - go look at colleges, get her a library card, see what sports clubs she might be able to go to, get her a bus pass, engineer ways for her to meet any kids you know etc... Small steps, not one big daunting problem.

Don't feel like you are making make-or-break choices with her this year on school - main thing is to get her settled in somewhere with stuff to do and moving forward, then you and she will have a better idea next year.

ajandjjmum Wed 26-Sep-12 21:58:32

Bluebells - you sound lovely, but I hope I'd do the same. Hopefully she will really benefit from your family atmosphere, and may become a valued member of your family whilst she is with you.

Poor kid.

When are you going to be meeting her?

Himalaya Wed 26-Sep-12 22:01:20

Ah, I see what you mean... I guess I jumped the gun with my advice, I thought she was on a plane to you.

MrsSchadenfreude Wed 26-Sep-12 22:08:48

Do you have a local school or college that does the IB diploma? She could go straight in and start that - no need for GCSEs.

SheelaNeGoldGig Wed 26-Sep-12 22:08:56

I think I'd maybe get her to get a job for the rest of this year. And she can then look arpund at A levels or diploma courses for next year. That way she could ease back into UK life find her way around, do something hobbyish (sports). Have a bit of fun, help you with the babies and find her feet, while she decides what education course suits.

tharsheblows Wed 26-Sep-12 22:08:57

I don't know how to help you decide, although my advice would be to not wait and see if it fails with the half brother before offering her a place to stay. It would make it much harder on everyone and you and she sound lovely, so neither of you need that.

With respect to the rules: I was an exchange student when I was 15 and lived in Australia for a year (I'm American). I just followed the house rules and was treated like one of the kids (the mother had 3 boys.. a girl was a bit of a shock, I think). I think that's probably the only thing that really works in the long term.

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