A woman who adopted her 15-year-old half-sister when she was 21 has opened up about the rules she has in place for the teen two years after taking her in.
Hunter Nelson, 23, from Kentucky, and Gracie, 17, have the same father, who passed away in 2015. After her younger sibling’s mother died in 2021, she applied to be her legal guardian instead of letting her go into foster care in North Carolina.
The college student, who is majoring in elementary school education, has been open about their story on TikTok, where she details what it’s like to be responsible for a teenager at such a young age.
In a recent video, she answered a viewer’s question about the rules she has for Gracie, who is only six years younger but still in high school.
‘I only have two rules for Gracie, and the rest are just expectations I have for her,’ she explained. ‘So my two rules are that she can’t lie, and she can’t smoke, drink, or vape, just because [of] health concerns, obviously.’
Hunter Nelson, 23, from Kentucky, is raising her half-sister Gracie, 17, after adopting her two years ago. She detailed the rules she has for the teen in a recent TikTok video
The half-sisters have the same father, who passed away in 2015. After Gracie’s mother died in 2021, Hunter applied to be her legal guardian
Hunter noted that she has been candid with Gracie about why she doesn’t want her to use harmful substances at her age.
‘It’s not good for you as an adult, but it’s especially not good for you as a teenager, and we’ve talked about that,’ she said.
‘The rest of the things are just expectations I have for her. I expect [that] she keeps her room clean and helps me clean the bathroom. I expect she makes good grades. I expect her to communicate with me.’
Hunter recalled how she was ‘very strict’ when Gracie first moved in with her, saying she had a cleaning schedule on a whiteboard that her half-sister was expected to follow step by step.
‘I do think this helped her become more functional because if you guys know anything about foster care or kids who come from an unregulated environment, they need that structure to get set on track,’ she explained.
She added that Gracie was initially not allowed to have sleepovers when she first moved in with her because she ‘didn’t think she knew enough people in the area.’
‘Now, one of my expectations is [for] her to communicate with me, and if she communicates with me that she wants to go somewhere, and she wants to spend the night at her friend’s house, she can do those things,’ she said.
‘And I really like that she can do those things now because that’s such a fun part of being a teenager and being in high school. But that’s pretty much it. Two rules and like three or four expectations.’
‘I only have two rules for Gracie, and the rest are just expectations I have for her,’ she explained. ‘So my two rules are that she can’t lie, and she can’t smoke, drink, or vape’
Hunter added that she also expects Gracie to get good grades, help her clean, and communicate with her
The video has been viewed more than 247,000 times since it was posted on January 7, and a number of commenters praised her for raising her half-sister.
‘This is great! We have three rules. Don’t lie, Don’t do drugs, do not drink and drive or ride with someone who has. It works,’ one person wrote.
‘My sister took custody of me when I was 14 and raised me until I moved out. I have so much respect for you for doing this,’ someone shared.
Another added, ‘I applaud you [for] adopting your younger sibling. That is just so awesome. I congratulate you and I wish you the best of luck.’
There are some who have insisted that Hunter is throwing her life away by caring for her younger sister, but she believes that becoming a mom has changed her for the better.
‘My life took on a whole new purpose when she came to live with me!’ she said. I love seeing her get to enjoy being a teenager.’
Social services initially wanted to put Gracie into foster care or have her live with an aunt following her mother’s death, but the aunt didn’t prove to be a good fit.
Hunter said that Gracie only had a backpack full of clothes and a small dog that was pregnant when she moved in with her
The college student said she had some savings when she took Gracie in. She also has a part-time job, and both she and her half-sister received money after their dad passed away
‘Things were going on that…just weren’t safe for Gracie,’ Hunter explained in a previous video.
The aspiring teacher also noted there was a history alcohol abuse in the family, and their father used to drink heavily with his partners.
In a bid to help her half-sister out, Hunter filed for legal guardianship, which she said cost around $120 at the time. However, she needed a signature from a family member and the ‘resentful’ aunt wasn’t willing to sign off.
In the end, the matter went to court, and Hunter won guardianship of Gracie following a legal battle.
She recalled how the teen only had a backpack full of clothes and a small dog that was pregnant when she moved in with her. To make Gracie feel at home, she made her bedroom ‘super cute and got her some clothes.’
In 2021, shortly after Hunter adopted her half-sister, she went viral on TikTok after detailing some of her inner fears about her guardianship. The footage showed her looking a bit stunned while sitting in the driver’s seat of her car.
‘Me driving down the road am realizing I’m 21 with a 15-year-old,’ she wrote in the on-screen text. ‘No other parents or staff members at her [high school] are gonna take me serious[ly].
Hunter shared a photo of herself meeting her half-sister Gracie shortly after she was born
Hunter explained that she and Gracie ‘were never really that close’ when they were growing up because they lived five hours away from each other
Social services initially wanted to put Gracie into foster care or have her live with an aunt after her mother’s death, but Hunter was awarded guardianship of her after a legal battle
‘I can already feel people asking me what grade I’m in when I go to her events,’ she continued. ‘How am I gonna teach her to drive when I can barely get down the road.’
‘I love overthinking,’ she captioned the clip, which has been viewed more than 8.2 million times.
Hunter has admitted that taking on the role of mom has been tough, but she noted that has had lots of support from her friends, her mother, and her boyfriend.
‘Honestly, I could not do anything without him,’ she said of her boyfriend. ‘He is so supportive of me, he’s proud of me, he lets me know that I’m doing a good job…and his mom is such a godsend as well.’
Since she shared her story online, Hunter has been inundated with questions from intrigued viewers who want to know more about their relationship since they are so close in age.
She said they ‘were never really that close’ when they were growing up because they lived five hours away from each other. They also have another half-sister from another one of their father’s relationships.
In 2021, shortly after Hunter adopted her half-sister, she went viral on TikTok after detailing some of her inner fears about her guardianship
Hunter has admitted that taking on the role of mom has been tough, but she noted that has had lots of support from her friends, her mother, and her boyfriend
When asked if their dynamic is more of a ‘strong sister bond’ or a ‘mother-daughter one,’ Hunter explained that it’s a ‘bit of both,’ but her primary role is ‘parent.’
‘[Gracie] does understand that it is my job to keep her safe. I am her guardian,’ she said. ‘I have to like make sure she is not making any harmful decisions to herself or other people around her.
‘We have fun together, we love each other, and we do like things that sisters do, but then, also, I’m her only parental figure, so it adds that extra element into it. She has rules and chores to do. I do everything her mom would do.’
And while Gracie respects Hunter as her guardian, she doesn’t call her ‘mom.’
Some people have also asked how Hunter manages financially.
The student said she had some savings when she took Gracie in. She also has a part-time job, and both she and her half-sister received money after their dad passed away.
‘Some days it is really, really hard and I think I’m going to pull my hair out,’ she said of caring for a teenager. ‘Somedays it is so easy and we get along so great. That’s been the hardest part for me, is having to admit when I need help and having to ask for that help.’
She added, ‘I think that it really worked out for the best for the both of us and I think we’re both very happy now.’
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk