Semptember 24, 2001
When grandparents are parents again
by Ida Bujan
Special to the Valley View
"I was surprised by the number of grandparents raising grandchildren," was Mariide's first comment.
Mariide Widman is a grandmother who has had custody of her grandchildren, Zachary, 3, and Brittany, 4, for two years. She has chosen to return to Duvall because "my peers offered me a community in support of raising the grandkids. I had no idea how many other grandparents were raising children until I started parenting my grandchildren."
According to the 1997 U.S. Census, there are 2.5 million grandparent-headed households, which account for six percent of U.S. children under 18 (3.9 million).
These grandparent-headed households cross every socioeconomic and ethnic group (AARP). In April of this year, Governor Gary Locke issued a proclamation to set aside a day to honor and recognize the "significance of the care and nurturing" of grandparents and other relatives "who are stepping forward in ever-increasing numbers to assume the full, daily, parental responsibility" of raising children.
Mariide, a congenial, good-natured and energetic grandmother of two preschoolers, considers herself fortunate because she has been successful at meeting her grandchildren's needs. Even with all her resourcefulness, Mariide is the first to admit that there is a " ... long list of things (about being a grandparent raising grandchildren) that are overwhelming" at times.
Grandparents raising children are faced with many difficult, complex and emotional challenges, including legal issues related to adoption, guardianship and foster care; financial difficulties associated with housing, food and providing medical care; and emotional strains such as grief, anger, confusion, resentment and depression.
After reading this list of challenges grandparents face, Mariide commented that something was left out ‹ guilt "about raising a child who is dealing with issues in his life that are preventing him from assuming his role as a parent."
To make matters worse, finding help and support within the community can be difficult. Even if support is available, Mariide pointed out that "my generation is reluctant to engage with community systems. It is an admission of failure."
"I am amazed how tired I am," Mariide commented. "Child raising has changed. I have so much to catch up with."
After a pause and a sigh, Mariide's optimism resurfaced with the comment, "Of all the things I have to say, what is most important for every grandparent to know is that it only takes one person to make a positive difference in a child's life."
Mariide's words are consistent with research that has shown that having one key person in a child's life is what enables a child to be resilient and successful through adversity.
In response to this growing community need, Children's Services of Sno-Valley (CSSV) was awarded a National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP): Kinship Care grant to expand social support, legal advice, respite and family enrichment opportunities for grandparents raising grandchildren in the Snoqualmie Valley.
To provide these expanded services, CSSV is offering grandparent support groups this fall in Duvall and North Bend. Both groups offer the opportunity to share information, support and personal experiences, as well as provide a time to explore topics of interest, learn about other community services and enjoy each other's company.
The Duvall group will meet from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. The North Bend group will meet the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Groups are free and childcare is provided.
For more information about the grandparents support group, please call Ida Bujan at CSSV, Duvall, at (425) 788-7924 or LeeAnn Hansen-Dewey at CSSV, North Bend, at (425) 888-2777.