By CeCe Vance Wilson
As far back as I can remember, I would hear about parents leaving their children with their grandparents in pursuit of a job in another city or state, and the parent would send money home to help support the whole family as they remained part of their children’s lives. Because of the “it takes a village mindset,” families work hard to give their children the best life possible.
Today, however, due to the opioid crisis, mental illness, or death of a parent, more and more grandparents are raising their grandchildren with little-or-no support from either biological parent. My first experience seeing a grandparent take a parental role came as I watched my own mother struggle to raise her grandchildren. Never in a million years did I think that I would one day be walking in her shoes. Grandparents Day is September 8, and in celebration, I wanted to share my story.
One evening I was driving home from work and I got a call from my youngest son. “Mom, I need to talk to you,” he said. I could tell by his voice it was serious. I knew he struggled with drug addiction for years, so I wasn’t sure what he needed because I had cut him off financially. (I was practicing “tough love.”) He told me that his girlfriend was getting out of jail and that she was eight months pregnant. He feared he could lose his son through their drug addiction, and he didn’t want that life for his son. He was scared his son would end up in foster care or a group home and that he would be lost in the system forever.
I experienced a myriad of emotions. I was in shock, angry, and hurt. My innocent precious little grandbaby didn’t deserve to come into this world facing so much uncertainty. As a mother and a grandmother, I agreed to have my son and his girlfriend move home and, while they were supposed to enter a drug treatment center, I would help them care for their new baby. However, things didn’t turn out the way we hoped, and I became a second-time mom again at age 52.
My grandson was only 6 weeks old when he came to live with me. I fell in love with him from the first time I held him in my arms. I felt blessed each morning that I got to wake up to this beautiful bundle of joy. I couldn’t help but to think he needed me — and I needed him. However, I was still in transition in my own life — healing from the death of my father and a divorce that left me financially strapped while also trying to come to terms with my mother’s terminal illness.
As my (now) husband and I fell into our new roles as Mommy and Papa, we both realized there was no support system in place for grandparents raising grandchildren. Even worse, some of my closest friends distanced themselves from me.
The first 2.5 years were the hardest due to lack of sleep and financial support as I had to quit my job in order to juggle my new life. After having countless discussions my husband encouraged me to follow my heart and share our story with other grandparents in similar situations so they know they are not alone, and to let them know there is support and help available. Once I began sharing my story and researching other resources out there, I realized that I wasn’t alone. And if you are a grandparent raising a grandchild, please know that you are not alone either.
Resources Available for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
- Arizona Family Resources: aask-az.org
- Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors (AZGA): azga.org
- Duet: duetaz.org/grandparents-raising-grandchildren
- Arizona Caregiver Coalition: AZCaregiver.org
- Department of Child Safety (DCS): dcs.az.gov/fosteradoption/kinship-foster-caregivers
- Benevilla: benevilla.org/family-resource-center
- Kinship and Adoption, Resource and Education (KARE): arizonakinship.org
- 2nd Time Parenting: 2ndtimeparenting.org
- AARP Foundation’s Benefits QuickLink: aarp.org/quicklink
CeCe Vance Wilson is a local grandma raising a grandson and the founder of 2nd Time Parenting. She is also involved with and supported by Duet.