(ABC4 NEWS – SALT LAKE CITY, UT) 8-year-old Sam and 6-year-old Boston lean over and give their grandmother a hug and exclaim “Grandma” in unison when I asked them who was with them.
According to the 2010 Census, 10 percent of children in the U.S. are being raised by relatives…especially grandparents. Encarni Gallardo, Executive Director with the Children’s Service Society explains the most common reason why. “There is a lot of which I respect and believe needs to be done for those that are involved in drug addiction situation. But there is this other issue around this that is affecting the family, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the children and sometimes we don’t get to that.”
It is a reality that sometimes is forgotten. When parents are in rehab or unable to take care of the children for whatever reason the question arises “what about the kids?” When grandparents start taking care of those children the first thing that comes to mind is “what now?”
Dan Paul is the grandfather to 11-year-old Breona and 10-year-old Rylee. He and his wife are the now the legal guardians of the girls. He told me; “When my wife and I decided to take Breona she was little. I’ve got a picture of her when she was really little. We’ve had her since then. Both of them have become an integrated part of our lives.”
I asked the girls, what is your favorite thing about Papa? Breona said with a grin; “He’s like a Dad to me. I love him. He takes care of me.” Rylee chimed in with a hug; “I love him, yeah.”
The Children’s Service Society offers a variety of programs supporting the safety and well being of children, including on called “Grandfamilies and Kinship Care.”
Dan is definitely a fan of the program; “The biggest thing I’ve taken out of Grandfamilies is that we are not alone. You meet a lot of other people that are going through the same thing.”
Jenn Dishman is the grandmother and full-time caregiver to Sam and Boston. I asked her what advice she would give to other grandparents that find themselves in this situation. “Take care of yourself and just love them, but also utilize Grandfamilies. They have great resources.” Same leans in and whispers to his Grandma. Jen asks, “What Sam?” She repeats his words; “And pray for them. Absolutely.”
These stories deserve to be told. These are Utah Caring Stories. I’m Doug Jessop, ABC4 News.