When Debbie’s great niece Camille came to live with her 15 months ago, the little girl was “a mess,” recalls 56-year-old Debbie. “She arrived with just the clothes on her back, dirty and abandoned.” Abused since she was a baby, Camille had never used utensils. She had problems with anger management, felt very insecure and was two years behind in school.
Until she became guardian to the troubled child, Debbie lived only with Rick, her “significant other,” for 25 years. “I didn’t have children and I never had to take care of anyone but myself,” she says, “so I guess I was pretty narcissistic and selfish.” Owner of a successful court reporting business, Debbie took Camille in because none of the little girl’s other relatives wanted her. “Rick and I didn’t think it was an option to have her go to a foster home,” she explains.
Giving her “heart and soul” to Camille was “the easy part,” Debbie says. “Fitting Camille into our routines and making room for her in our lives was pretty difficult.”
Happily, Debbie, Rick and Camille have become a family. “She’s getting A’s in behavior in school and is more outgoing. “She’s been fine once we got her calmed down and provided her with a home,” Debbie reports. “Rick has been a fantastic role model for her.”
Debbie and Rick also travel 100 miles round trip many weekends so Camille can “bond” with her half sister and brother, 7 and 2, who live with their father. “We have made great strides,” Debbie says, “but it’s been the hardest 15 months I’ve ever spent, a life-changing event. If ever I questioned why I was put on earth, I now know why.”
Friends often tell Debbie there’s a special place for her in heaven. “Will it be in an adult’s only section?” she jokes.