Accepting Full Responsibility for Grandchildren: A Case Study
Millions of children worldwide are currently in the custody of their grandparents. For some of these kids, this is a temporary arrangement, but others have made the permanent transition into living with their grandparents. When making the decision to take full responsibility for their children’s children, grandparents must consider a number of factors, but for most, the decision often comes down to simple need.
One Set Of Grandparents Shares their StoryWill and Jackie’s daughter has been troubled since her teen years. As she got older, the inconsistencies in her behaviour increased and by the time that she was a young mother, both of her parents were worried about not only her welfare, but that of their granddaughter, as well. “She had trouble keeping a job, she didn’t seem to be able to maintain personal relationships, and unfortunately, our granddaughter’s father wasn’t any more capable than our daughter was,” says Jackie. “We knew that we had to help.”
Offering AssistanceIn the beginning, Jackie and Will’s offers of help were met with resistance. “Our daughter was happy to take financial assistance,” says Will, “but she generally refused any sort of hands-on help with the baby.”
Before long, their daughter and her boyfriend were expecting another baby and after their second granddaughter was born, the need for help became even greater. They had suspected that the children’s father was abusing drugs, but never had any proof. After the man overdosed, Will paid his daughter a visit and took a firm stance. “He let her know that while we loved her, we couldn’t stand by and allow our granddaughters to be neglected,” Jackie says. “I think that conversation aged him five years.”
Though it was a difficult to approach their daughter, both Will and Jackie are happy that they did. “She needed our help and the girls needed our help. It was really as simple as that.”
Open Heart, Open HomeWill and Jackie’s daughter packed up her belongings and she and her children moved into her parents’ house. At that time, the girls were very young (the oldest was two and the baby was not yet six months old), so their needs were considerable. It soon became obvious that their daughter was having an even more difficult time managing her daughters than her parents had imagined. “Our daughter slept for long stretches and then stayed awake for even longer periods. She was short-tempered and mostly ignored the girls,” says Jackie. “It was appalling.”
“I tried to be gentle in offering advice,” Jackie adds. “I know it can be difficult to have someone telling you what to do, but sometimes, something has to be said.” Their daughter became confrontational, accused her parents of not caring about her, and decided to move into a place of her own. Jackie and Will tried to convince her to stay on, but when it became clear that she was determined to leave, they offered to keep the girls with them for a while, just until she got settled in a new place. Their daughter agreed.
Temporary to PermanentWill and Jackie’s granddaughters are now nine and seven years old, and they are in the permanent custody of their grandparents. “Our daughter is still a part of the children’s lives, but she plays a very limited role. The girls know that she is their mother, but they don’t seem particularly connected to her, emotionally.”
Jackie says that she knows the time is coming when the girls might have difficulty with the idea that their mother doesn’t do “motherly” things, and she plans to be as open as possible with her granddaughters. “I’m honest with them. I love my daughter and I always will. But the fact remains that she is not a capable parent and honestly, she isn’t really interested in trying to become one. My granddaughters will be free to draw their own conclusions, but my hope is that they will love their mother as I do—accepting who she is, but not relying on her for anything.”