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Updated Saturday, August 15, 2009 7:51 PM
Program helps grandparents cope with raising grandchildren
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Judy Hill and granddaughters
BY LYNETTE GEORGE
A young man and woman meet, fall in love and marry. They have and raise their children, then watch them leave the nest to begin their own lives and families. A few more years go by and the couple reach a time in their lives that they can retire, relax, and get reacquainted, maybe even travel and take up new hobbies. They love visits by their children and grandchildren, but also enjoy the much-deserved freedom they have.
In decades past, that scenario was often the case. Not so in today's society. Many women and men, including a large number in Texoma, are now spending their "golden years" busier and more challenged than ever, raising grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. It's a labor of love they didn't plan on, but are succeeding at with the help of family, friends, churches and programs such as GAP (Grandparents as Parents) and Respite Care, sponsored by the Texoma Council of Governments.
On Tuesday, dozens of grandparents and great-grandparents, along with some with their young wards, filled the GAP meeting room in Sherman. A donation of $2,000 from the Grayson County Rotary Club enabled the GAP program to purchase school supplies to be distributed to grandparents and great-grandparents with school-age children. It was a much-appreciated help to the grandparents who are struggling to make ends meet.
Joan Bruedigam of Denison raised three children of her own, plus a nephew and niece for a number of years. She kept one of her granddaughters much of the time and now has legal custody of that granddaughter's two little girls.
"Their mother got on drugs," explains Bruedigam. "She used to call me all the time to come get the oldest girl, but said the little one was safe ... The drugs got worse and I got both girls."
A divorcee, Bruedigam retired from Raytheon, but is still having to work whenever possible to make up for the additional costs of her great-granddaughters.
"The added expense is more than I expected," says Bruedigam. "Their mother did go through rehab and is working at a restaurant, but doesn't make much. I get a little money from the court system. I have food stamps for the kids and WIC for the baby, and the girls are on Medicaid, and that helps a lot, but I have to buy everything else."
In addition to the financial burden, Bruedigam has had to change her lifestyle.
"I don't have a life anymore. There are so many places I can't go because of the kids. My life has just stopped," says Bruedigam. "But I love the girls. They're great kids, and I don't know what I'd do without them now."
Participating in GAP has been a help for Bruedigam.
"The GAP program is great. I hear the stories from other grandparents and that gives me ideas," says Bruedigam. "They (GAP) also helps me out (with its Respite Care program) so that I can get a little time off."
David Killion Sr., 71, of Sherman fights the tears in his eyes and his voice cracks when talking about his 9-year-old great-grandson. Killion and his late wife, RhayEtta, gained custody of the boy when he was just under a year old and, now, Killion has filed for full adoption of the child.
The Killions raised five children and had eight grandchildren, one of which lived with them for three years. The great-grandson's mother was in her early teens when he was born and wasn't ready to raise the child. The Killions got legal custody of the baby when he was 11 1/2 months old. Killion had had to leave his long-time job at Texas Instruments due to health problems including grand mal seizures, migraines and more. He'd even spent three years in a wheelchair. Taking on the added responsibility of the great-grandson was a challenge, but one Killion doesn't regret.
"Financially, it's been a struggle," explains Killion. "My late wife was working and made too much for us to get Medicaid, but not enough to cover what he needed."
After his wife died several years ago, Killion was able to get his great-grandson on Medicaid. That has helped ease the medical costs.
"He's ADHD, and one of the medicines he takes is $200-plus a month. The other medicine he needs is about $70 a month," says Killion.
Also helping Killion is the Child Guidance Center by providing counseling. The Texoma Council of Governments pays for after-school and summer day care.
Like Bruedigam, Killion says having his great-grandson has changed his life and limited some of the activities he would like to participate in such as traveling and visiting the elderly and shut-ins. However, the child has made the sacrifice worthwhile.
"He keeps me grounded and gives me a chance to give back," says Killion. "He's been a blessing, both spiritually and mentally. He keeps me young and vibrant."
As an only child himself, Killion says he prayed when young to be able to have a family of his own. He believes his prayer has been answered in many ways and that he's been "blessed" more than he ever imagined.
"I used to have grand mal seizures and God took them away. I used to have migraines and God took them away," says Killion. "I wasn't supposed to have lived this long as I had health problems even when I was young, but God kept me here for a purpose and I think that (his great-grandson) was the purpose. I thank God every day for my grandson and the many blessings he's given me."
Judy Hill of Pottsboro smiles at her active, animated granddaughters, ages 10 and 13, who were excited about the school supplies and their new haircuts. She and her husband, Jim, have had legal custody of the two half-sisters since they were babies.
"It wasn't meant for me to be an empty-nester," says Hill. "And my husband seems to be enjoying the girls as much or more than when ours (the two Hill children) were little."
Like their peers raising their second and third generations of children, the Hills have had to revamp their lives, but have no regrets.
"Finances are always a problem with anybody, and it takes two of us to work (to care for the girls)," says Hill. "We'd talked about retiring, but now, we talk about what we're going to do when they get out of high school. When they're out on their own, then we'll do what we're able to do ... I wouldn't trade this (raising the granddaughters) for a big retirement and traveling. They've been such a blessing to us! Honestly, I believe God gave them to us at a time when we needed it."
Four grandchildren, three of whom are special needs, fill the home of Donne' Hamilton of Sherman. Now 60-plus years of age, Hamilton says raising the children -- an 8-year-old grandson, a set of six and one-half-year-old twin boys, and a four and one-half-year-old granddaughter -- is a huge undertaking. The oldest grandson suffers from ADHD and attachment disorders. One of the twins is autistic and the other has pervasive developmental delay. The granddaughter, at this point, shows no signs of problems.
Her journey began in 2004 when her daughter and husband moved into her home. The couple split up when the granddaughter was only a week old. The daughter began having problems and, in 2006, Hamilton took over the raising of the four children.
"All families have unresolved issues, some are just harder to address," says Hamilton regarding her daughter and taking on her grandchildren.
Hamilton tried to continue her full-time position as a Texoma Medical Center risk manager. However, the children required more and more time. Hamilton was aided in the daunting task by her own mother until her death. Hamilton then left her job in order to continue raising the children. Providing some help financially was the fact that all the children are on Medicaid and the autistic child is considered disabled. Other than that, and support through TCOG programs, Hamilton has to handle all the additional costs and chores alone. Her days are filled with caring for the children, doctors' visits, shopping for food and clothing, and other necessities. The children's mother has been somewhat more involved in their lives this past year, according to Hamilton, but there's a long way yet to go.
Attending the monthly GAP meeting and a once-monthly massage is one of the few breaks Hamilton gets in her hectic schedule.
"You have expectations for your life and when life doesn't meet those expectations, you sometimes feel you're the only one," says Hamilton. "In GAP, you listen to other people's stories. There's love, anger and frustration, and you (GAP participants) develop a bond. It helps you see that you're not alone and that it could be worse or better. It helps you to be in a little more in control of the choices you make."
Hamilton ended, "With grandchildren, you can choose to raise and love them to the best of your ability or turn them over to foster care or CPS. I couldn't do that. I can't imagine what would have happened to them if I had not stepped up and taken them."
For more information on GAP, respite care, or caregiver resources, contact Judy Conner of the Area Agency on Aging at 903-813-3575 or 800-677-8264.
Comments ... 3 found!
Grandchildren with ADHD : 9/6/2010
My daughter is looking for a support group for parents and grandparents of ADHD kids. Does anyone know of one in Sherman?
GIMME GANG! : 3/21/2010
Call me a part of the gimme gang! I am raising two grandchildren, for the last 13 years, and am sick of the amount of funding that goes to agencies that talk about grandparents problems instead of giving these funds to the grandparents. I am sick of the amount of money that can be paid to foster parenting and not the grandparents. I am sick of a government that will fight a grandparent to get them off of TANF and the Lone Star card yet pay out all these monies to agencies and foster care. Grandparents should be given as much or more than a foster parent receives every month and make that RETROACTIVE! SHAME on AMERICA!
Sad But True! : 8/16/2009
This is just another indication of the "me, me, me" generation. It's all about me! Look at me! What about me! What's in it or me?! That's not fair to me! We are becoming a generation of lazy, worthless dependents who are so wrapped up in ourselves, that we don't give a rat about our parents or anyone else, their lives, their retirement, etc. All doubt of this was removed when Obama was elected. Through his beliefs and actions (every handout imagineable for the lazy at teh working man's expense) he is definitely the right one to lead a nation of lazy dependents!!
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