Grandparent Feature

Painting a Picture of Hope

By Jacque Miller, CSU Larimer County Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences

Out of the country teaching orphans how to watercolor, Sally received an email that her grandson in Colorado needed her. She packed her bags and flew home, not knowing what to bring or how long she would be in Colorado. In the past, she came to Colorado every three months to see her grandson. She soon made a decision to rent an apartment here in order to provide kinship care for her grandson.

At first, “It was like a visit, but I soon realized that I had to be the parent.” There were the daily challenges of trying to get her grandson in bed at night and up in the morning, running errands, keeping appointments, and home visits. An arrangement was made for his mother to visit four times a week. Sally feels very lucky because her daughter wants to help and eventually regain custody of her son. Their mother-daughter relationship has grown closer; however, her relationship with the rest of the family members has grown apart. This has become one of her greatest challenges.

Social Services classes required Sally to be a ‘Kinship Provider’ for her grandson. There were also interviews, home visits, and meetings arranged. “That entire process was scary, I had no clue what I was getting myself into and I was not getting any answers.” Social Services provided discounts to recreational activities which were very helpful and useful. However, she is frustrated by the limited amount of resources for her grandson basic needs, such as food and clothing. Keeping a journal and reporting to Social Services has been a huge burden for her. “Being a Kinship Provider is more like being a ‘glorified babysitter’; I do not have rights, but have many obligations and the stipends at times are not even enough.”

On her journey through this complicated system it was difficult for Sally to find answers or even understand the process. At the beginning of this process she was afraid to ask for help because she thought her grandson would be taken away from her. Eventually she learned it is okay to ask for help and advice, because there could be more grandparents out there with the similar questions or going through the same situations. Through it all, she learned a great deal and now wants to help other grandparents. She recommends to “keep trying to get information; do not be silent about problems that you maybe having.” One of the best things she did was talking to other grandparents and getting involved in support groups. “These grandparents are the quiet heroes of the world.” Getting involved and talking to other grandparents helped her feel less isolated from the outside world.

Sally does not have much time for her love of art any more, yet through all the ups and downs, she would not go back nor change a thing. She learned a great deal and her relationship with her daughter and grandson is closer.

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