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They Call Me Momma:  Relatives Raising Children:  Solidarity and Support

Tuesday, August 28, 2001 at 2:55 PM

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Thousands of older Clevelanders are finding themselves with unexpected lifestyle changes and new responsibilities. They include a myriad of physical, personal and emotional challenges - an outgrowth of having to become a parent all over again. Kinship care is on the rise, and as 90.3 WCPN's Renita Jablonski tells us in our continuing, in-depth series "They Call Me Momma: Relatives Raising Children," grandparents are looking for solidarity and support.

Renita Jablonski- It’s a summertime picnic at Lakewood Park. Pat Trimble looks around at the group preparing platefuls of hot dogs and hamburgers.

Pat Trimble- The stories are similar, in that, you know, we all have grown children who aren’t necessarily being responsible, who may even have, some may have mental problems that are beyond their control. And just trying to do the right thing by their grandchildren or in some cases their niece and nephew, so they can just lead a normal life.

RJ- Trimble is a 51-year-old grandmother raising her son’s daughter. The child was physically and sexually abused while living with her maternal grandmother. Trimble is white, although a recent study conducted by Cleveland State University’s Urban Child Research Center indicates that nearly two-thirds of the kinship caregivers in Cuyahoga County are African-American. But CSU professor Wornie Reed conducted the survey, and says each socio-demographic group faces the same challenges.

Wornie Reed- The most serious issue for the caregivers in general are financial - support for the children and support for the kinds of things they would need for the children. They also have a highly expressed need for recreational and social-type activities because these grandparents and other relative caregivers know that the kids need that but they don’t always know where to go.

Eleanor Mora- You know, rent goes up, food goes up, and my income doesn’t. I mean, I think last time they increased my retirement by $40 then they took out $50 for Medicare because I’m now 65. So, wait a minute! Am I losing or something?

RJ- Like Pat Trimble, Eleanor Mora, who does not want her real name used, is looking for support at this picnic in Lakewood. The event is sponsored by GRASP or, “Grandparents and Relatives as Second Parents.” Mora says that when events like the support group picnic roll around, she takes full advantage.

EM- I got a thing in the mail that said that we have a discount for grandparents at the Great Lakes Science Center. So I take her to things when I get discounts and now I’m eligible for all the senior citizen discounts on meals and things, so that’s… it just takes a lot of creativity.

RJ- Deanna Rose leads the GRASP support group and says what may take the most creativity is balancing the challenges of child-rearing along with the emotional pain.

Deanna Rose- They feel a lot of anger and a lot of guilt and they’re going through a grief process regarding their adult child so they have a lot of emotional issues.

RJ- German-born Eleanor Mora, with a Masters’ Degree in psychology, recalls going through that process herself.

EM- Because that was one of the things when my daughter was really just out of, out of order. I mean, she would show up at three o’clock in the morning, at two o’clock and so she know I wasn’t going to tolerate that and I told her if she did not, I would not have a problem calling police. And that’s hard, that’s my own child. I love her dearly. She’s a sweetheart when she’s off drugs.

RJ- Deanna Rose has been leading GRASP support groups for six years. She’s a grandmother, but has never found herself in a long-term caregiver situation.

DR- The emotional lack of support, the emotional need, the need for validation. And that comes from a lot of areas - validation from their own families that they’re doing the right thing, validation from the community. Many of them feel isolated because now that they’ve got these kids they don’t have anything in common with the people that they used to hang around with that are retired or semi-retired and they’re doing their own thing, now they can’t.

RJ- These days, Eleanor Mora’s come to accept that she cannot do anything to change her daughter’s situation and puts all of her energy into raising her 4-year-old granddaughter.

EM- I pray every day that I stay healthy enough to continue doing what I’m doing.

RJ- Meanwhile, Deanna Rose is hoping for more options to be available for caregivers like Pat Trimble and Eleanor Mora.

DR- I think there are resources out there but it’s not nearly enough that’s why there needs to be more advocacy. The resources that are available, the cash assistance, is not enough even to usually pay for child care. It’s so minimal especially in relationship to child support of someone who’s of median income or of foster care. It’s not enough to raise a child.

RJ- In Lakewood, Renita Jablonski, 90.3 WCPN News.

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