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Real Life

Real life: I was forced to steal my grandkids from their mum

Val*, 58, Gosford, NSW shares how she went to extreme lengths to keep her grandkids safe.

By Take 5 team

Val*, 58, Gosford, NSW shares how she went to desperate lengths to keep her grandkids safe;

My daughter Jennifer slammed the door and stormed straight out to her car.
"That went well," my hubby Harry said dryly.
"She'll come around," I said, trying to sound optimistic.
The truth was that since Jennifer was a teenager, she'd been going off the rails faster than a V8 driver on steroids.
What started as a packet of cigarettes at 13 had soon turned to heavy drug use and, when she was 16, a baby.
Now, at 27, Jennifer was a mum to three kids, all to different fathers, and hadn't changed her ways.
In fact, I was certain that she was using ice given how stick-skinny she'd grown and the scabs festering on her arms and face.
Today, Harry and I had called her over while her kids were at school so we could try and stage an intervention.
But Jennifer wouldn't have a bar of it.
"She's 27 and old enough to fend for herself," Harry said gruffly afterwards.
"It's her kids I worry about. Those poor little buggers deserve to have at least one decent parent."
Harry was so emotional that he stormed off to the garden to try and calm down.
Jennifer's descent into drug addiction had really taken its toll on him.
Jennifer descended into a life ruled by drugs. (Image: Getty Images)
She was our only child and had always been the apple of his eye.
He'd taken her fishing each weekend when she was little and he'd help her with homework of an evening while I cooked.
Now they barely had a relationship at all.
"Where did we go wrong?" I sighed.
Money had been tight in our house, but we'd always managed to scrape by and even go on the odd family holiday down the coast.
Jennifer had certainly never gone hungry or missed out on anything.
Like Harry, I was terrified my daughter was going to end up dead in the gutter with a needle hanging out of her arm unless she changed her ways.
But I also feared for my grandchildren Anna, 11, Jason, eight and Katie, six.
They were so quiet; it was like they knew their mum was teetering on the verge of self-destruction.
I'd reported the situation to DOCS a long time ago, but nothing had happened.
When a social worker had gone around to Jennifer's commission home, she'd been so convincing that no action was taken.
Just to be on the safe side, I'd pop over most mornings and make the kids their lunches and see they got to school – I couldn't trust Jennifer to brush her own teeth let alone look after three children properly.
We just wanted to give the kids a loving, stable home. (Image: Getty Images)
"Why don't you and the kids come and stay with me and Dad for a bit?" I suggested, looking around the stained walls of the flat.
Before Jennifer could answer, her neighbours started screaming at each other saying words I wouldn't dare repeat.
Jennifer sighed. "Maybe you're right," she said.
It had been a squeeze having the four of them all in our house, but Jennifer seemed to have cleaned up her act and the kids even started smiling and laughing.
"Our little girl's back," I said to Harry.
But one day we returned home and found no trace of Jennifer.
Frantic, I phoned her.
No response.
Two days passed before she traipsed through the door in the early hours looking like she was half-dead.
"My God, Jenny! What's happened to you?" I asked.
Waking the kids from their sleep, she took them back to her flat, despite our desperate protests.
Since then, we'd barely seen her.
Some days, I'd drive past to check her car was still there.
I considered leaving a note, but her letterbox was stuffed with mail that she clearly hadn't checked in weeks.
We wanted to help our daughter get her life back on track. (Image: Getty Images)
And now that Harry and I had tried an intervention, I feared she might do something drastic and I'd never see the grandkids again.
Tossing and turning all night, a million thoughts went through my head: Should I move in with Jennifer and refuse to leave? What if I kidnapped the children so they'd finally have a decent chance at life?
Next morning, I had enormous black bags under my eyes but as I put the kettle on, I had an idea.
"We could adopt them," I told Harry, and I explained my plan.
That afternoon, I drove to Jennifer's and surprisingly she gave me a hug.
"Sorry I haven't called you. My phone's been cut off," she explained, ushering me inside.
Her beady eyes could barely look at me in shame.
But when I started talking about adoption or becoming a kinship carer, she listened and even nodded in understanding.
"It's best for them, and you, love," I said. "It'll help you get back on your feet."
We got the whole process underway and the kids started spending most nights with Harry and me.
Just when a court date was set, Jennifer started getting cagey.
"I'm not sure …" she began.
"It won't be forever," I assured her.
But in my mind, I knew my grandchildren should never return to Jenny, who was spending more and more time high on ice.
Those kids needed a home where they could thrive. (Image: Getty Images)
When the court date rolled around, I sent Harry over to collect her.
"Jennifer needs to see a doctor," I said. "Take her there."
Since Jennifer didn't bother to turn up to court, and she probably didn't know about it anyway because she never checked her letterbox, the judge ruled that all three of her kids should remain in my care.
You might think I'm a wicked mother to trick my own daughter like I did, and while I do feel guilty about it occasionally, I know it's better than the alternative.
If those kids had stayed with their mother, they would have never stood a chance.
Instead, they're part of a loving home and are thriving at school.
Meanwhile, Jennifer has finally agreed to go to rehab and has been clean for two months.
She's still got a long way to go, and Harry and I will do all we can to support her.
But for now, my priority is being a mum to the three children who need me most.

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