Parenting: When grandparents become parents

October 4, 2010

Lorraine Gaines of West Mount Airy is one of those grandparents. After raising six children, and working full-time, she was hoping to retire.

Then one of her daughters died suddenly leaving four young children behind. Another grown daughter up and left, leaving behind grandchild number five.

Now, for more than a decade, Lorraine has raised her grands with no job.

"There's no way I could have put them in the system. So, I brought them here to Philadelphia, I gave up my job, my pension, everything to take care of these kids," said Lorraine.

While Lorraine went from grandma to parent by default, other families do it by design when their grown children get a second job, go back to school, join the military or move back home to save money.

It can all create tension for the kids.

"They don't want another person to impose their norms, their values on them because that may not have been the value of the household in which they were raised," said Barbara Loobey of the Crozer-Chester Medical System.

Sometimes grandparents need to get custody of their grandkids to take them to the doctor or get their school records.

Of course, it can all get very tough if the grandparents' money runs out. That's when they reach out to groups like Second Time Around Parents in Delaware County.

"In most cases grandparents are on a fixed income, so they don't have an unlimited source of income. So, therefore, they need to think 'how am I going to get the things I need to get for this child?'" said Cheryl Thomas of Second TIme Around Parents.

Unfortunately, most government programs for grandparents have been cut. However, churches and friends can sometimes help.

The good news is, most grandparents bring plenty of wisdom, patience, experience and love, helping the uprooted grandkids back on track.

As for Lorraine, her grandkids are making good grades, staying active and going to church.

"It was hard, really hard, but I did it," she said. "I think God had a purpose in life for me and this was it."

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