It all started with a phone call. “She is being used as bait for a police investigation! She traffics drugs through the city, the police know about it and they are not concerned about her. All they want is to follow her to try and catch the big guns behind the operation.”
My mum had called, all enraged. Soon after, my sister confirmed what was happening. My only niece was in big trouble. And my family’s request was: Could we help in any way?
I am from Germany, and in Germany teenager under the age of 14 are untouchable by the law and therefore in danger of being groomed and abused for illegal purposes. This, it transpired, had happened to my niece. My wonderful, intelligent, beautiful and dearly loved niece who I helped bring up for the first 4 years of her life.
After much deliberation, my husband and I agreed: We would take my niece in. She moved to the UK and friends helped look after her while I was working the last few weeks until the big holidays.
I am going to spare you the details of how we tried to rescue this hurting child out of destructive behaviour patterns. Suffice it to say that for 6 months I rarely got more than 2-3 hours of sleep each night after several vanishing acts and having to report my niece missing, searching parks, calling friends… My days were spent wondering how to help her, how to make a family out of the three of us, working with heads of years from school, reporting back to Social Services, and wondering, just wondering what to do.
In the end, I had run out of breath. Simple as. German social services had been urging us to return my niece to my home town as she had used up more than enough chances, deadlines and ultimatums. When we gave in, it felt like betrayal. I had fought like a lioness for my charge, I had poured absolutely everything into this wonderful human being. And just as nearly 10 years before, I had to give her up.
The decision to let her go winded me so severely, I didn’t catch my breath again until nearly a year later. Coming to terms with feelings of failure and overcoming constant questioning of my own abilities choked any other ambition in my life.
When work suggested I take time off to concentrate on just myself, I found myself in God’s Waiting Room.