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  • Suddenly, Grandparents Are Parents Again

    6 posts, 6 voices, 685 views, started Jan 27, 2009

    Posted on Tuesday, January 27, 2009


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      Suddenly, Grandparents Are Parents Again
      By KOMO Staff & News Services


      KING COUNTY - It’s a typical night at grandma’s house, and Indiana Allen’s kitchen in Renton is filled to bursting with kids in costumes, dancing and cheering. There are warm hugs and hot food.
      But when the meal at Grandma’s house is over these kids won’t be going home.

      They are home.

      “I never thought I would be at this stage of my life, even though I’m a relatively young woman, to be reparenting six children,” Allen says.

      Allen’s daughter has battled drug addiction for years and Allen says that’s why she is raising her daughter’s children, who range in age from 4 to 15.

      A Staggering Problem

      Allen is clearly one in a million. But she's one of millions too. The number of relatives - usually grandparents - who find themselves suddenly parents is skyrocketing.

      The trend has grown 50 percent in the past decade, according to a recent UC Berkley study. Another study concludes a staggering one in 10 grandparents will raise a grandchild.

      Family counselors say parents aren’t parenting due to drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, imprisonment and death.

      The problem is color-blind and class-blind—about 68 percent of caregivers are white and 29 percent are black, according to statistics gathered by the authors of the book “Grandparents As Parents.”

      What that means in Washington state is that roughly 40,000 children are being raised by grandparents.

      Someone To Lean On

      According to the American Association of Retired Persons, the typical caregiver is a 59-year-old grandmother.

      That description rings true at the biggest support group for reparenters in Seattle. The women gather each week at the Rainier Community Center, where some of the members have been coming for 10 years. Those veteran caregivers are a great resource for grandparents who are shocked to find themselves chasing a toddler again.

      “He wants to call me Mom a lot of times but I always refer to myself as Grandma,” says a woman who is a newcomer to reparenting. Her voice cracks with emotion as she describes the confusion she feels about her new role.

      At a time in their lives when they planned on playing bridge or seeing the world, reparenters wrestle with tight budgets and wrenching change.

      “I gave up my senior housing that I had had for 14 years,” says Johnny Fisher, who took on three grandchildren in July when her daughter-in-law died.

      The women share the pain of adult children they have lost and the bittersweet joy of reclaiming that next generation. Family therapist Abbey Moon-Jordan is one of two facilitators who have been leading this support group for a decade. She says finding an outlet for emotions is the most important step for the new caregiver and displaced child.

      “Find a support group, find a counselor and talk to other grandparents in a similar situation,” Moon-Jordan says. “It’s not your fault and you are not alone.”

      Not Much Money Available

      What about financial assistance? Even though grandparents and relatives are the safety net keeping kids out of foster homes, there isn’t much money for kin-care.

      “I think a lot of people are just about going bankrupt caring for kids. They need financial help, they need day care,” says Moon-Jordan. “They need all sorts of social services and it just isn’t there.”

      One example: Moon-Jordan says a foster parent in our state caring for three children would get about $1,500 a month while a grandparent caring for three grandchildren would receive roughly $500 a month.

      Grandparent groups are lobbying Gov. Gary Locke to change the laws, and are organizing in other ways, too.

      Don’t Take ‘No’ For An Answer!’

      Early next year there will be a live video satellite conference dedicated to helping grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. On Feb. 27, Washington will be one of four states that will take part with at least 20 sites around the nation hooked up to the live broadcast, which will offer financial, legal and emotional assistance.

      Back at Indiana Allen’s home in Renton, she’s talking about the next step for her support group. They are working on a bill spelling out the rights of grandparent caregivers.

      She urges grandparent caregivers to let their voices be heard.

      “You’ve got to learn how to get out there find out what’s available to you,” Allen says. “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer!”

      On The Internet

      Relatives As Parents, a state clearinghouse for support groups, legal resources, links to other grandparent Web sites

      Kinship Care, a support group in Olympia

      Northwest Women’s Law Center

      Grandsplace!, a national Web site for grandparents raising grandkids


        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Tina Sickinger wrote May 14, 2009
        • I, too, am reparenting.  My daughter is unfortunately out into the ways of the world and my husband and I are raising her now 5 year old daughter.  We have had her since she was a baby; she is our baby!  Given the circumstances, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but sometimes it does get hard, especially with my health not being good.  We are a family, the three of us, and that bond will now never be broken.

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Queend wrote May 14, 2009

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