Why Do Grandparents Do It?
"Parenting a grandchild is a necessity born of tragedy, and tragedy has no regard for race, class, ethnicity, location, or religion," say Sylvie De Toledo and Deborah Edler Brown, co-authors of the book Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family. Many families are in crisis, stemming from a host of problems that are on the rise. This correlates with the growing number of grandparents taking over parenting from their children for reasons including the following:
- child abuse
- substance abuse (drugs and alcohol)
- teenage pregnancy
- parental death
De Toledo and Edler Brown point out that "drugs and alcohol account for more than 80 percent of the grandparent families." The familial bond runs deep, as grandparents step in to keep these children safe, loved, and out of foster care.
After enduring a long battle to save her grandchild, Jenny, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Betty Cornelius created the CANGRANDS website as a resource for grandparents and family members who are raising extended family members. Betty was able to share the care of Jenny with the birth parents 10 to 15 days a month until the little girl was three and a half years old. During the time that Jenny spent with the parents, Betty says, "Jenny suffered from four poisonings, molestation, and numerous falls, all of which required hospital care." Betty fought her son and daughter-in-law for custody of Jenny. The birth parents had free lawyers while Betty borrowed $28,000 to help fund her battle. Finally, Betty was awarded custody after it was discovered that the maternal grandfather was a pedophile.
Betty sums up her experience like this: "Jenny is worth every cent. But the stress of the court battle led to high blood pressure and many health-related problems for me. Plus I lost my job. I worry about how I will ever catch up as I no longer have any retirement funds. I worry about short-term things like braces, lessons, and camp for Jenny. Then I worry about the long-term things like college and her wedding. Basically, we worry that our health and funds won't hold up long enough to see her into adulthood."