A couple gets married, has children and settles in to raise a family. Then, something goes very wrong. Serious illness, death, drugs, child abuse, and the parents can’t – or won’t – raise their own children.
Female: A typical night at grandma’s house, only Gerry Carroll is not your typical grandmother. She and her grandkids, Chris Carroll, Britney Carroll and Cristina Carroll have a very special relationship. Gerry Caroll: Most of these kids ask and Chris goes, “Well, she used to be my grandmother and she adopted me and now she’s my mom.” Female: The children’s mother got into some trouble and now she’s in no position to take care of them. Gerry Caroll: She wasn’t doing or working on her life to get it back in order and that was really unstable. I wouldn’t allow her to come see the kids. Female: Chris and his sisters have adjusted to their new life and seem happy here. They say it sure beats the foster homes they were in for a while. Chris Carroll: Because you know that because you know her well and it’s like you’re going to live with someone that you don’t even know. Female: The kids call Gerry mom and treat her like a mother in just about every way. But it took a while for everyone to get comfortable. Dr. Hogan: Traditionally grandparents spoil and they take care of the child and then relinquish the child when things get rough. Grandparents, who are parenting, can’t do that. They have to establish the same firm, clear limits and appropriate discipline that parents use. Female: So there was some extra work for Gerry and some confusion for the children. Dr. Hogan: I think that a child being raised by his or her grandparents may feel that they have been let down or discarded by their own parents and they may not even be able to put that into words. I think the people have to be around and ready to explain to children that they are deeply loved, that they haven’t been abandoned, that the people that surround them are committed to them. All of these things can go a long way in helping children cope with this. Female: And when Gerry herself needs counseling, her pediatrician is standing by. Dr. Hogan: I think that having a healthcare provider, a pediatrician that they can go to when they have concerns. How could I do this better? I don’t understand this developmental problem. I don’t understand this medical problem or how to give the medications or treatments. Female: The children can be a handful just like all kids. Dr. Hogan: It’s hard to raise your children, they make you tired. And grandparents may experience fatigue, may need extra sleep that they just can’t get. Female: About the only time Gerry has to herself is late at night, after the children have gone to bed. But as hard as she is working, she wouldn’t miss it for the world. Gerry’s situation is not uncommon. In fact, the US Census Bureau estimated that in 2001, over 2.4 million grandparents were either partially or entirely responsible for raising their grandchildren. That figure is up almost 80,000 from the year before. So why are more and more grandparents finding themselves in the role of parent? Dr. Hogan: I think there are many reasons that grandparents may step into either take over the parenting or help with parenting their young grandchildren. One might be that parents are young and just weren’t ready for that responsibility when it happened. And grandparents realized that and are committed to the children. Female: That was the case for Michelle Ives who never batted an eye when it came to her commitment to her young grandchild, Justin. Michelle Ives: My daughter was 19, she became pregnant, she wasn’t married but she was living with the boy, men, young men. They had a relationship. she became pregnant and had a baby boy. Dr. Hogan: But the responsibility of motherhood was something that Michelle’s daughter was not ready for and Michelle recognized this almost immediately. She began to prepare herself as well as her husband for the possibility of becoming the parents of a young child, again. Michelle Ives: Our heartstrings were tied. We just said, “You know what, we don’t have a choice.” If she chooses not to take him with her, our only alternative is foster parent and we didn’t feel that was an option. We didn’t want to lose him, we love him and we just felt like “You know what, this is God’s plan for us and we have to do the best we can.” Female: Michelle juggles a full time career and also has a fifteen year old daughter at home yet she still manages to find time to care for Justin. At the time when she and her husband would be looking forward to their retirement years and world travel, they have to postpone those plans. Michelle Ives: You’re looking at a college plan, you know, we’re talking health insurance, it’s not easy. And we have to cut off the new car and the trips and that has to wait. And you know, we hope that we keep our health, long enough that we can enjoy those things later in our life. Female: Michelle may not realize it now, but according to Dr. Hogan, Justin may play a big role when it comes to her and her husband’s good health. Dr. Hogan: Having children around keeps you young, keeps you active, keeps you on your toes. And we all know now that when you exercise your brains and bodies, you enjoy health much longer. Female: And Michelle definitely feels that she has been richly rewarded by her dedication to Justin. Michelle Ives: Justin has been a blessing to my husband, he’s been a blessing to me and we certainly have been rewarded by the all things that he gives us.