By Diana Sevanian, Signal Staff Writer
A popular Facebook meme says that the best thing about grandparenthood is being able to spoil our grandchildren and then give them back to their moms and dads. While many grandmas and grandpas would chuckle at this thought, most would agree that “giving them back” is not necessarily high on their priority list, particularly when those child-to-grandparent bonds are tightly woven.
For more than 10% of American grandparents, giving back is not even an option. Owing to their own children being unable or unwilling to care for their offspring, grandma and grandpa’s home is where the grandchildren live.
Nearly six million children under age 18 live exclusively with their grandparents. California leads the nation in such households.
Becoming parents for the second time around in life can present myriad challenges, and with such drastic changes in family dynamics, it can be a complicated path. For many of the children, anxiety, depression, abandonment issues and anger are experiential byproducts of what they’ve lived.
After all, by the time these youngsters are taken in by their grandparents, many have already known abuse, neglect, and/or other forms of hurt, disappointment, confusion, and chaos.
Linda Davies, who facilitates the Grandparents as Parents program at Bella Vida senior center, hails these grandparents as selfless heroes striving to raise their grandkids in nurturing, safe and structured environments.
“They are stepping up to the plate to take on their grandchildren and keep them out of the foster system, which is so important,” stated Davies, who has an extensive background in childhood education, domestic violence, and senior issues.
The program, Davies notes, offers free support groups facilitated by qualified professionals; advocacy services to help caregivers as they maneuver in the juvenile court system; referrals and education, such as help in raising “at risk” children; advocacy/intervention to offer support with county/state agencies, schools, doctors and courts; and peer and caregiver family socials/outings that help with overcoming the isolation felt by many caregiver families.
Grandparents often have worries that are unique to their situations. Many are concerned about getting older and stress over who will care for these children if anything happens to them. Some have special needs grandchildren and significant long-term concerns. Many grandparents fear that what might have “gone wrong” with their own children could repeat itself with their grandchildren (including anything that they as parents might have done).
“There are many things that we do to support them, to empower them, and help them plan ahead,” Davies said. “These grandparents have declared, ‘Yes! I’ll take these kids even though we have already raised children, even though at some point we were going to be retiring. We will make this sacrifice for our grandchildren.’ These grandparents are wonderful human beings.”
The Grandparents as Parents group meets at Bella Vida on Mondays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. (helpful for working grandparents/those who cannot attend during the day) and Thursdays from 10-11:30 a.m. Childcare is available. A group also meets in the Antelope Valley on Tuesday from 6-7:30 p.m. (call for the specific Antelope Valley location).
Bella Vida, is located at 27180 Golden Valley Road, Santa Clarita. For more information on the Grandparents as Parents program call Linda Davies at (661) 259-9444, ext. 113.
Diana Sevanian is a retired registered nurse and a longtime Signal columnist and features writer.