Grandparent Feature

Navigating the Roadblocks: Raising Grandchildren in Northern Colorado

By Taylor Stonehouse
CSU Extension Intern

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Tanner Grandchildren

Linda Tanner was getting ready to retire and travel the countryside when life drew a new hand for her to play. And even though this hand came with limited resources and countless struggles, she's played a pretty good game.

Linda always played a big role in her two grandchildren's lives. She was there when Gage and Taylor were born, and they all lived in Kansas. In 1998, Gage and Taylor's family moved to California, and Linda went to visit them that Christmas. That's when she knew the children were in danger.

"Their parents where active in their drug and alcohol addictions and were choosing to continue on that path," Linda said. "The kids had pretty tough times from birth on dealing with their parents' issues."

In the year following, Linda filed for emergency temporary custody for the two children. After four months of court hearings and an endless trail of paperwork, she earned full custody in May of 2000. But even though Linda made it over that road bump, she soon found plenty more.

While raising Gage and Taylor, she was looking for jobs, recovering from an injury, and taking college courses. Facing these challenges and others, such as loss of friends and time constraints, Linda said she often felt all alone.

"I felt like I was way out there on a limb and I thought I was the only one ever dealing with this kind of stuff," she notes. Once she attended a local educational series, "Parenting a Second Time Around" she quickly became friends with other grandparents going through similar situations.

Linda and the others started the Larimer County Grandparent's Raising Grandchildren Support Group in 2005. The program has since grown and reached many families in need of support. With the additional support and fund raising of the Larimer County Alliance for Grandfamilies, coordinated through CSU Extension, the team was able to hire a Kinship Care Systems Navigator, Josh Rabe, to help them through the frustrating road bumps and dead ends that they were all facing.

Recently, Linda was looking at a sign-up sheet from a support group in the fall of 2006, with between ten and 15 families looking for support services. "By the end of May 2008 with everyone's effort, we were at 101 families," Tanner says. That really helped her get a perspective on their progress. "It's huge," she says.

Now her grandson, Gage, has started high school. His sister, Taylor, is a spunky sixth grader, and Linda plans on graduating from CSU with a degree in social work by Spring of 2010. She said she has the support of numerous community programs to thank for helping get their family back on their feet.

"It's so nice to know we're not alone," she said. "But we still have needs, and we still have new kin providers who are just starting to experience those struggling stages. Hopefully, we can help them transition through some of it and not go through the pain and the agony of the closed doors and the dead end streets. Maybe we can save them from some of the frustrations and turmoil that we had to go through."

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