Participants: Cheri Peters (Host), Annette Washington, Pam Talley
Series Code: CLR
Program Code: CLR000102A
00:01 The following program discusses sensitive issues
00:03 related to addictive behavior.
00:05 Parents are cautioned that some material
00:06 may be too candid for younger children.
00:10 Welcome to "Celebrating Life in Recovery."
00:12 My name is Cheri, I'll be your host.
00:13 And today, we're gonna be talking
00:15 about grandparents as parents.
00:17 Did you know there is a few million kids
00:20 in the country being raised by their grandparents?
00:22 Come, join us.
00:51 You know, we're talking about unsung heroes.
00:53 And I never even thought about this issue
00:56 that we're gonna cover today except for one day,
00:58 I'm online, I'm on Facebook.
01:00 I'm on Facebook way too much.
01:02 We should do a whole program on that.
01:04 But I'm on Facebook and somebody says,
01:06 "Have you ever-- have you ever
01:08 thought about recovering grandparents?"
01:11 And the fact that they are a lot of times
01:13 raising their kid's children for a various reasons.
01:17 Sometimes it's drugs, alcohol, sometimes it's just trauma,
01:20 sometimes it's an accident, mental health.
01:22 There could be a lot of different reasons.
01:23 But I thought you know what? I haven't.
01:25 And I don't think we've ever done a program like that.
01:27 So I just put a feeler out and said,
01:30 do you think anybody would be interested in this?
01:32 And I put it on there.
01:33 And I can't even tell you from all over the world,
01:36 I had grandparents contacting me.
01:39 But almost with the sense of thank you so much,
01:41 you even recognize that 'cause I think sometimes
01:44 we just need to say, when--does anybody see me?
01:48 You know, I'm working hard, does anybody see me?
01:50 So this program is a program about grandparents.
01:54 And if you're out there, man, we see you.
01:57 And so I wanna introduce you, Pamela.
02:01 You are from-- from Saint Louis, Missouri.
02:05 And the organization is--
02:06 "The Grandparents As Parents Support Project."
02:09 Called GAP. GAP as what we call it.
02:11 So when I put that feeler out on Facebook,
02:14 somebody said, "Have you ever heard of GAP?"
02:15 And I thought I never have.
02:17 And so I realized that you guys are everywhere.
02:20 And I want you to talk about that.
02:21 But the first thing I do is I think okay,
02:23 if we're gonna do a program
02:25 we're getting close to the airtime,
02:27 so can I find anybody close to the studio?
02:30 And I called you and I loved you
02:32 from the minute you answered the phone.
02:33 It was delightful. So tell us who you are?
02:36 And then we'll get into the program.
02:38 'Cause, you know, I want to know who you are
02:40 and why you started this or why you're involved in this?
02:43 Okay. Well, I'm Pamela Talley.
02:46 I'm an Advanced Practiced Nurse.
02:49 And in the 1980s-- well start.
02:54 I was born and raised in the city of Saint Louis.
02:58 And the oldest girl of seven children, and--
03:02 Big family. Big family.
03:04 Parents divorced, and mom had to work.
03:07 So, you know, I had to do
03:09 a lot of the caretaking of my siblings.
03:13 I was a teen parent as well at 16.
03:17 And, but continue to go to school and college and--
03:21 You know, when you talk about that is that that,
03:23 you know, you raised your kids and you were in that role
03:26 for you to be a parent, that's all you really ever knew.
03:28 That's all I ever knew. Yeah, I'm a good parent.
03:31 Right, right. So that was nothing unusual.
03:35 But after college-- after completing nursing school,
03:41 I just--I worked in a hospital for a little while,
03:45 but I was so perplexed by the number of young people
03:51 who was addicted to drugs
03:54 and coming in for medical care or due to accidents.
04:00 And so I just thought, you know,
04:03 "Hey, I have to try to figure this out.
04:06 There is--there has to be some prevention."
04:09 "And some way to stop some of this."
04:11 And so I did look at getting a job in community,
04:16 which I was very lucky
04:18 to land a job at United Methodist Agency.
04:23 And started working with kids who were
04:25 from a low-income housing complex
04:28 and there was gangs and drugs and all kinds of things.
04:32 So, you know, what I want-- I want you to do for us.
04:34 'Cause a lot of the viewers know
04:36 that I was homeless fairly young,
04:37 so that's streets kind of abusiveness if I understand,
04:41 but some of us don't understand that at all.
04:44 So cover that for us a little bit.
04:46 And then, you know, you have a community
04:48 where if you didn't get involved in these things
04:51 that would be unusual 'cause that's what's offer to you.
04:53 There is no options when people say, no.
04:57 They say--when people say to say, no,
05:00 then what do you say, yes to?
05:01 There is nothing there much to say, yes to.
05:05 And we are such a being.
05:07 So for many other kids, they had no choice.
05:11 And so the dynamics of what happens
05:13 and community has to change in order for communities
05:19 and families to be healthy.
05:21 And what's--what's amazing to me about your journey
05:24 is that you saw that even in school
05:26 is that somebody has to step in and do something.
05:29 Because these kids are going to be so lost.
05:32 Absolutely. So early on, at the Social Service Agency,
05:38 we started offering in AA, and they were open groups.
05:44 We actually brought them into the community
05:48 and ask them to hold step meetings
05:51 and whatever meetings they could there,
05:53 so that these families could start to get better.
05:56 Okay, and so and I love.
05:58 I love the fact you used
06:00 whatever you thought the draw would be. Right.
06:02 Because it wasn't so much the meeting that was magic.
06:05 It's that they start you needed people
06:07 to get in a healthy community. Exactly.
06:09 And I don't care what the draw is.
06:11 And just for anybody that's looking out.
06:13 You know, if they can do anything to help,
06:14 it's whatever the draw is.
06:16 If you need to do a program for daycare, do that.
06:18 If you need to NA, do that.
06:20 You need to do divorce recovery classes, do that.
06:24 But whatever the draw is 'cause what you want is actually
06:27 just form that community again. Exactly.
06:29 To--had to begin to rebuild it and it's so very interesting
06:34 that the AA and NA and the community
06:37 overwhelmingly were-- they were seniors.
06:41 I mean, I was absolutely shocked at that.
06:44 I mean, yeah, I was shocked at that.
06:45 I was shocked at that. And, but they were seniors.
06:51 And trying to stay clean and sober on a daily basis.
06:57 But also because I worked with youth in that community,
07:03 there were a number of youth
07:05 who had a single parent
07:07 and that parent was on alcohol or drugs.
07:10 And so I spent a lot of time connecting kids
07:15 who needed safe, healthy environments
07:17 and were just sick and tired actually
07:20 with a family member who did not have an addiction problem
07:25 and could take care of those kids.
07:27 And so I was-- I had--
07:29 I was transporting kids. You kind of scanned.
07:31 But you scanned the family too that's who's clean here.
07:32 Actually, right.
07:34 Well, I would--I would have that conversation with the kids.
07:37 So who in your family can take care of you?
07:40 Who in your family can we give Christmas dinner to
07:43 and you have dinner? Yeah.
07:46 They actually cook it.
07:47 They will cook it and you all can sit down
07:50 and have dinner together. Right.
07:51 Who in your family can we give gifts to
07:55 where you're off for Christmas and you all actually get it
07:58 and they're not selling them in community?
08:01 So those kinds of conversations.
08:04 So when the kids would say, uncle so and so
08:06 or aunt so and so or grandma or grandpa
08:10 then those would be the family members that,
08:12 you know, with an intervention
08:14 we would call those family members up.
08:16 Sometimes into those things, but eventually ended up
08:18 getting those kids placed with those family members.
08:22 I spend a lot of time doing that.
08:25 And then actually working on helping those parent--
08:28 those grandparents or aunts and uncles
08:31 to help take care of those kids.
08:33 So all over the place.
08:35 And so even when I left that particular agency and--
08:40 But you know what?
08:41 I got to say about that agency to me
08:43 'cause I'm thinking of what all of the material you--
08:46 all of the stuff you must've learned
08:49 by looking at the family dynamics
08:51 and how to kind of make this healthy again.
08:54 That it was you needed that. Yeah.
08:58 Oh, so put the-- Right.
08:59 To put those pieces together and understand
09:03 that there was not an infrastructure--
09:07 in place to help families be healthy. Right.
09:12 And that is some of what through the grandparent project,
09:15 we really hope to recreate.
09:18 So you ended up leaving that agency?
09:19 And going to another agency. Doing the same thing.
09:23 And still looking at working with youth.
09:26 We're finding out that you had to work with the whole family.
09:29 Well, I started doing that at--I actually
09:35 when I went to the next agency I focused more on the adult.
09:41 Helping them to take care of the youth,
09:43 the parenting peace. That's right.
09:44 Because a kingdom house and that's
09:47 that was the United Methodist Agency,
09:49 I worked a lot on helping kids to be self-sufficient.
09:53 In many ways, you know, and helping them to learn
09:57 to cope and take care of themselves.
09:59 If you're gonna raise yourself, here's how you do it.
10:00 This is how you do it. This is what you have to do.
10:03 You know exactly.
10:04 Some people just hate the fact, like,
10:05 one time I met this kid out of Alaska, 12 years old.
10:09 And I'm teaching her how to keep herself safe.
10:12 And they're saying, "Well, you know,
10:14 shouldn't you be getting her in the safe place?
10:16 Well, look around her." There is not a safe place.
10:18 So somebody just has to teach her,
10:20 this is a reality, and so that's what you were doing.
10:22 Exactly. And that was a reality.
10:25 You have to teach them that they're living
10:27 in these households, they need an alarm clock,
10:30 you know, so they can get up
10:31 and still go to school, somebody needs to cook.
10:34 We had people to teach classes on how to just cook right out
10:38 at the food pantry based on what you get.
10:41 You know, who is there
10:42 to support you and be there for you.
10:45 You know, so-- Build some.
10:46 Yeah, help to build some of those
10:48 resiliency skills in those kids.
10:50 Because some kids will say, but it's not fair.
10:52 Okay, now let's get pass that. It is not.
10:54 'Cause it's just the way it is. It is.
10:57 And yeah, you know, we really don't want to say that,
11:00 but for some kids it's a blessing to say that.
11:02 It's not fair, but this is what you need to do.
11:05 Exactly, and frequently you hear kids say,
11:08 it's not fair or you know, they--you know, they lie, they--
11:13 you know, they have all these issues with adult,
11:16 but if they get stuck there they'll have real issues.
11:19 Okay, you're right. You know, they do.
11:22 Okay, they are-- They're addicts.
11:25 They are addicts, what can we do?
11:28 You know, and I would always have that conversation with kids
11:31 about that elephant in their living room.
11:34 Especially when our new kids were living in those families
11:36 and they were being neglected and really needed some help.
11:41 So we're gonna see this elephant.
11:44 You know, we're not gonna-- we're not gonna say,
11:47 there's not an elephant in the living room.
11:50 It's really big. It's taken over.
11:52 So what are we gonna do about that?
11:54 Well, you can't change that,
11:56 but you don't have to stay in that situation.
11:59 You know, you're not gonna change your mom, you know.
12:02 And so, yeah, that's how that the journey
12:06 with grandparents raising their grandchildren started for me.
12:10 So you ended up from that agency that did a morphine to the--
12:14 Actually, went to the next agency
12:17 and ended up working with girls who were in gangs a bit.
12:23 And again many of these had a single parent
12:27 and to get part of that was to protect themselves
12:31 from those things and community
12:33 just to move from one area to another area in community.
12:38 And I wish, I wish that someone could sit down
12:42 with some of these girls and they will tell you.
12:45 You know what?
12:46 There was a point in my life where nobody
12:48 was gonna hurt me again
12:49 or you were not gonna get in my face again.
12:51 And some of them are very young
12:52 when they decide that and they can get vicious.
12:55 But their viciousness is this response to, you know,
12:58 I'm done. Right.
13:00 I'm just done with being afraid.
13:01 I'm done with having someone control me in that way.
13:05 And most of the time even with gang members,
13:07 as you get underneath all that
13:08 and you just see this little girl.
13:10 It's a little girl. It's a little girl.
13:12 So they ran in a gang that became their family.
13:15 And again to help build in some of the skills
13:18 that they needed to again survive and cope.
13:22 And but we--I also noticed that they were
13:25 a huge number of grandparents in that neighborhood
13:29 who was raising grandchildren.
13:33 And I was actually doing my graduate study
13:36 at that point and decided to, you know,
13:40 may be I need to see just how many of these families
13:46 are on our caseload, what we can do to help.
13:50 Because the structure is gonna be different.
13:52 What they need is different.
13:54 What they need was absolutely different
13:57 from what families needed.
13:59 And I think we started
14:02 with about two dozen grandparent families
14:06 and over a hundred and something kids,
14:08 these families were taking care of.
14:11 And I mean, I say some of the poorest people
14:16 in the world, you know, and--
14:19 And having a poor from even retirement for,
14:22 you know, for a different-- They're getting small
14:26 incomes, another raising kids and--
14:28 On the small incomes because the number of these women
14:31 were 60, 70, 80 maybe have been domestics.
14:36 And so they had very little money.
14:39 There were some husbands and wives,
14:41 but they were mostly older women who were raising--
14:45 raising kids on very little money
14:47 and spend a lot of their time
14:49 and energy going to food pantries
14:54 and thrift stores just surviving on a whole another level
15:00 that we don't even think about.
15:02 And they--you know, what I'd like you to talk
15:04 about you to is that sense of what I noticed
15:07 with some grandparents raising parents.
15:10 There's that sense of shame because
15:11 they don't want to talk about the situation
15:13 and why they're raising their grandkids at times.
15:16 And so they kind of just are plain it off
15:18 and hiding a lot of stuff.
15:22 They hide a lot of stuff.
15:25 Actually when we began to do the research on,
15:32 who these families were and what their needs were?
15:36 Many of these grandparents, we asked them,
15:40 what do you go for help or services?
15:44 And they would say what food pantries,
15:47 what church places or whatever,
15:52 but when we ask the service providers
15:55 or those organizations, they didn't know
15:58 that many of these people were even raising children.
16:03 Wow. You know.
16:04 'Cause that's so you just hide all that.
16:06 They are absolutely hiding it.
16:09 And again, so it's a very complex issue.
16:13 Some of it, it is their own denial,
16:16 but I think for many of the grandparents
16:18 it's their wish for the child, the parent of these kids
16:22 to get their self together, whatever that means.
16:25 If they're on drugs, get yourself together
16:28 get off the drugs, okay.
16:32 So for many of them, it's only those where
16:36 perhaps the child is died or he's dead
16:39 that the grandparents have been a little more forthcoming.
16:43 But even for children, parents of children
16:47 who are incarcerated.
16:49 I think that has been
16:51 the toughest group of grandparents.
16:54 The shame is so--so--
16:58 Do we--the shame is up that--And, you know,
17:01 for some reason I never even thought about that,
17:03 but I know like in California,
17:06 the top industry is a prison industry
17:08 and I never thought about until you just said
17:10 that is all of those children are somewhere.
17:14 A lot of with grandparents, foster place
17:16 and all kind of stuff, and so even the shame
17:18 of that would be very intense. Yes.
17:22 And when somebody tells me that they're raising
17:25 their grandkids because their kids are in prison.
17:28 That that instant look on my face is then another thing.
17:31 They're either gonna come out or hide. Yes.
17:34 By the look on our face when they share with us.
17:36 Right, right, right.
17:37 So the--when we initially started the support group,
17:41 we looked at where the folks were going to get the help.
17:45 They need--and what help they needed.
17:47 So the agency where I worked,
17:50 we began to try to provide those things for grandparents.
17:54 So they wouldn't have to spend days of the week
17:58 running all over the area from one food pantry to another.
18:02 And, you know, and some of those people
18:06 were again elders and just needed more help and support.
18:11 We have found that time and time again.
18:15 A support group is good, but if you have someone
18:18 who is 60 or 70 and they have to have
18:22 childcare to do a support group.
18:26 I mean, that is just, you know, something we don't think about,
18:30 but that something that we did.
18:33 We also when we did the group provided nutritional snacks,
18:39 fruit and juices because again they're spending
18:42 so much of their money on just surviving.
18:47 And, you know, so the issues are really, really complex.
18:52 So grandparents as parents, you know, the GAP program,
18:56 I was surprised that they were--
18:57 you guys are on a number of states, and number of--
19:01 Well, actually there are number of groups
19:03 that have grown because the numbers have grown.
19:06 We are not per say yes.
19:08 Even though Robert Woods Johnson
19:10 supported our group in Saint Louis--
19:13 it's a foundation supported the group in Saint Louis
19:16 to do the basic research because at that point
19:19 people hadn't really looked at all the really--the real issues
19:24 of what grandparents actually say they need,
19:27 and what their service provider say they need
19:30 which an even with that with such a mismatch.
19:33 You know, I said that they needed resource--
19:36 they needed more finances because I've had colleagues
19:41 who were definitely middle class.
19:45 And, but if you have to take 3 or 4 grandchildren,
19:50 you know, and it's-- in a crisis suddenly
19:54 and they may come with nothing,
19:56 you know, your whole situation changes immediately.
19:59 And sometimes not only they may come with nothing,
20:03 but they may also have emotional issues
20:06 that you're gonna have to address,
20:07 so these kids have been damaged
20:09 not because somebody's mean or whatever
20:11 just circumstances and just whatever.
20:14 And now they come with all of that.
20:16 Well, many of these and that is the other thing
20:19 that people just don't really understand.
20:22 Most of the grandparents are taking care
20:24 of these grandchildren because
20:27 there has been a crisis or there is a crisis.
20:30 And so the kids have a lot of trauma histories.
20:35 And when grandparents step up and say,
20:38 "Yes, we're gonna take-- I'll take grandkids."
20:42 They don't often realize the amount of may be abuse,
20:46 neglect or trauma that the child has suffered
20:50 prior to coming to them. Exactly.
20:52 And what they're going to actually need.
20:55 And so, you know, we have talked about that, you know,
21:00 the funding needs of grandparents
21:02 when they're raising their grandchildren.
21:04 If I was a single mother, I could go and get help,
21:09 but a grandparent-- Cannot.
21:11 Oh, I hate that. I knew you were gonna say that.
21:13 Cannot. We cannot.
21:14 Cannot, cannot, cannot.
21:17 You would have to have-- have a grandmother right now
21:21 whose daughter is on heroin. Yeah.
21:23 And she has this daughter walked away
21:27 early part of December and left this 4 month old with her.
21:31 And because the grandmother--
21:32 now she is taking the kid to the doctor.
21:34 So she is building a paper trail,
21:37 but right now the daughter continues to get the support.
21:41 And when the grandmother went to the family services,
21:45 they said, "We haven't heard from your daughter.
21:48 We don't know that she doesn't have the child."
21:50 She is like, "But I have the child right here, you know."
21:54 So until she can build a case to say
21:59 that she actually is taking care of the child,
22:02 then she can't even get food stamps
22:05 or wake or just some of those
22:07 basic things to take care of the kid,
22:09 and so when the grandmother contacted us.
22:12 You know, I didn't very-- has suggest that they call us.
22:14 And she was just looking for a baby bed for the child.
22:19 You know, she's like, "I have nothing."
22:21 And my daughter has--and I-- why do they let this happen?
22:24 I have the child, but it's what happened.
22:27 It is what happened.
22:28 And so one of the things that it sounds like
22:32 that you're advocating is--
22:34 there's got to be a change in that.
22:36 You know, 'cause it sounds like, you know,
22:38 a family is really do kind of gather
22:40 and then tried to do the best
22:41 they can when something falls out,
22:43 like, drugs, alcohol or crisis like that.
22:46 But, you know, there's got to be
22:48 some recognition or help beyond that.
22:50 Exactly, and what happens in families
22:53 by the time an addict,
22:55 you know, an addict burns so many bridges.
22:58 Oh, it's horrible.
22:59 And so this mother has other children
23:02 who are all grown and taking care of their kids.
23:06 And so what--this grandmother reminded me yesterday
23:11 is that I just shared with her that what happens a lot of times
23:16 is the kids don't think that she should be
23:19 taking care of this grandbaby. Right.
23:22 And they want--they want the baby to be safe.
23:24 But they don't want their mother sacrificing--
23:27 Her life. Her life.
23:29 This is her time. This is her time.
23:31 She should be enjoying her life and doing--
23:34 And I get that, but there is a part of me
23:37 that they really gets that grandmother's heart
23:40 that says, but if I don't do this,
23:42 this child will end up in foster care or,
23:45 you know, from drug house to drug house.
23:47 And that's what grandparents do.
23:50 And so, but because they sometimes
23:52 make those hard choices which for them
23:56 and everyone that I've ever interviewed said,
23:59 it was never a hard choice for them.
24:02 It is--why? This is my grandchild.
24:04 And they just do it, other people sometimes
24:07 make a choice not to support the grandparent
24:10 and the grandbaby or grandchildren because,
24:15 you know, they feel if she just would let the child go
24:18 then the mother will get herself together, you know.
24:23 So the dyna--family dynamics are just very complex.
24:28 You know, Pamela, I just want to say
24:29 I'm gonna-- we're gonna take a break.
24:32 I'm gonna introduce other group to
24:35 a grandparent that you brought with you.
24:38 And I just want to say that we're gonna meet her
24:41 and then I'm gonna bring you back because
24:43 I really want to hear a little bit more about GAP.
24:46 I want you to tell us, what do you think
24:48 that we need to know as a community,
24:51 not only a community in the cafe,
24:52 but all our viewers?
24:54 What do we need to know?
24:56 And I want to just say God bless you
24:58 for the work that you do.
25:00 'Cause I know that it is a group that needs a voice.
25:03 They need a voice. And I say God bless them.
25:05 There are the angels on earth. They're truly the unsung heroes.
25:10 We're gonna be right back.
25:11 I want to introduce you to a grandparent
25:12 that is in the middle of all that right now,
25:14 and some people that were raised by their grandparents.
25:16 So stay with us.