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Support group forms for grandparents raising grandkids

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Sept. 8, 2012 at 4:08 a.m.

Lucy Garica, 73, has raised her 6-year-old granddaughter Celeste since the child was a baby. Garcia has found a new support group, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, to be helpful in coping with being a parent again.

At 73, Lucy Garcia welcomes any help she can get raising her 6-year-old granddaughter.

She was thrilled when she heard about Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group of the Golden Crescent.

"It has helped us a lot, especially when you get overwhelmed at our age," said Garcia, who along with husband, Tony Garcia, has had the child since infancy. Her husband is on dialysis and much of the burden falls on Lucy.

"I have met a lot of people there in our same situation," Garcia said.

Her granddaughter, too, has made friends and enjoys taking part in the activities offered at the group's special events.

"It not only helps us, but the kids, too. They get to see that there are other people who care," Garcia said.

The support group is the brainchild of Jill O'Neill, a professional counselor who worked for Region III Education Service Center in early childhood intervention for 10 years.

She and co-workers had cases involving grandparents raising grandchildren.

"I am not a grandparent and was not raised by my own grandparents, I still have empathy for those who do," O'Neill said. "I am a mother of three children and can not imagine having to do it all over again."

The group had its beginnings in April 2011, but early meetings were not well attended, O'Neill said.

A pizza party last August and a Grandparents Day Out in September 2011 helped re-launch the group.

"Our mailing list went from about five to 50," O'Neill said.

O'Neill said the school district and other organizations and companies have helped to spread the word about the group.

Members vary in age from the 30s to the 70s and the children who come to the daycare and special events range from infancy to high school age.

"The awesome part of watching this all unfold is seeing the friendships that have evolved," O'Neill said. "I started this group hoping to introduce grandparents to one another so they recognize their similarities and realize that they are not alone."

O'Neill said her research revealed that in 2000, there were 400 area residents who claimed to be raising their grandchildren.

"In 2012, the number had doubled. I also researched the nationwide statistics and they are similar in comparison to the local numbers," O'Neill said.

"I had no idea how much the grandchildren also needed to know that there are other children who are being asked at school, 'Is that your mom?' or 'Where is your mom and dad' and want to know if they can call their grandmother 'mom' because of what the other children would think.

"The development of this group has been so much more of a blessing than I could ever imagine."

The meetings include discussions about community resources as well as parenting topics such as substance abuse, building character, depression, values and activities to keep children involved, said O'Neill.

There are no dues to join the group. Donations are accepted and grants have been sought to help fund the group's activities. Several local businesses also have donated to the organization.

To learn more or to join Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, contact O'Neill at 361-935-5561 or jilloneill92@yahoo.com.



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