Did you know that nationally, nearly 3 million children are being raised by a grandparent? Or that in Florida, nearly half a million children live in home where the householders are grandparents or other relatives?
At the Friendship Centers in DeSoto County, there is help for individuals who find themselves in these challenging circumstances. It’s a monthly support group called “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and other Relations Raising Relations,” and it’s a lifeline for participants like Rhonda Curry and Diane Day who are eager to share their experiences, express their frustration, seek advice from others, and learn what resources are available and how to access them.
Let’s say you have raised your own children and sent them on their way. You are looking forward to retirement, leisure activities, time to connect with a partner, siblings or friends. Then the unthinkable happens: circumstances collide to make you the guardian of young children again.
Suddenly you are a grandparent acting as parent, a brother raising a nephew, a step-aunt raising your husband’s great-niece. Your life has changed in ways that were unimaginable. At the Friendship Centers in DeSoto County, there is help at a monthly support group called “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and other Relations Raising Relations.”
It’s a lifeline for participants who are eager to share their experiences, express their frustration, seek advice from others, and learn what resources are available and how to access them.
The group is open to anyone who is the grandparent or other relative of a child by blood, marriage or adoption, under the age of 18, who lives with them and for whom they are the primary caregiver.
Rhonda Curry’s family has expanded under such circumstances. She really values the emotional support for day-to-day living and learning new parenting skills. “We’re studying a book by Stephen Covey called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families,” she says. “I’m used to the old-style parenting, so it’s great to find new ways to communicate, understand and better instill some morals in my children. I realize that screaming is not a solution.”
Curry is not alone; nationally, 2.9 million children are being raised by a grandparent – that’s 4% of all children.
Shortly after her second marriage, Diane Day found herself helping to raise three great nieces ages 3, 4 and 5. One of them, now 15, is still living with them. “The biggest challenge was learning how to be a family,” says Day. “I gave up my job to be a parent, to get involved in their schooling, to take them to doctor’s appointments, to show them there was hope. I don’t regret a moment of it, but it’s been challenging.”
The support group is led by Karen Blanchette, director of the Friendship Centers DeSoto County. She has been able to offer it for many years through a grant from the Older Americans Act.
“We are truly family,” says Blanchette. “They know if there is a problem they can call anytime. Whatever comes up here stays here –it is between us. We cry, we laugh, we share, we learn. I personally get a lot out of it, too, the satisfaction and pride of seeing them grow as a family.”
To underscore the need for this service, Blanchette says that in Florida, nearly half a million children live in homes where the householders are grandparents or other relatives, and 18% of them live in poverty.
Diane Day says that Blanchette has always been right there for her, especially when she lost two of the girls. “She’s so knowledgeable and kind, just wonderful,” she says. “This group has been an important part of my life for six or seven years.” For more information, contact the Friendship Centers of DeSoto County at 863-494-5965.