DEAR ABBY: I am a 14-year-old girl whose mother died 10 days after the attacks of Sept. 11. I never knew my father, so after Mom's death, I moved to Utah to live with my guardians and their three children.
My new family makes me feel comfortable and safe. I feel very lucky. The children are like my siblings. We all get along well, and I feel a real sense of belonging.
Although there have been difficulties adjusting to my new life, new school and new family, I have managed well with the help and support of my guardians -– especially my new sister.
Recently an adult friend asked me for advice regarding her own children. She was worried that if anything happened to her and her husband, the kids would end up in foster care.
My recommendation to her and to any parent is this: If at all possible, find a place with family or friends that you know your kids would feel safe and comfortable. Let them know that they would live there and be taken care of if anything happened to you. Above all, let the kids know how much they are loved.
Thanks for letting me share this with your readers, Abby. I love your column. -- ALL SETTLED IN, SALT LAKE CITY
DEAR ALL SETTLED IN: You are a courageous and mature young woman who has written a letter addressing a subject that's not often discussed because it's too painful. Your story is an important one. Sept. 11 has brought into focus the fact that the unthinkable CAN happen. All of us need to put our house in order –- especially if the household contains children.
Parents who haven't already done so should see an attorney to put their child custody plans in writing.