Grandparents Parenting Grandkids

Grandparents Parenting Grandkids
Grandparents Parenting Grandkids

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Grandparents Parenting Grandkids: New Horizon Christian Fellowship in Klamath Falls, OR, is Confronting an Often-Hidden—and Increasingly Common—Crisis in America

Story by Tim Hoelle
Photos by Jeff Odell

This story was first published in Fall 2020, Issue 85 of Calvary Chapel Magazine.

U.S. Census statistics from 2014 show that 4.8 million children lived with their grandparents. According to the AARP, more than 2.7 million grandparents are householders responsible for their grandchildren who live with them. Data from Child Trends shows that the percent of children in foster care in a relative’s home in 2010 was 26%. In 2017 that number had grown to 33%.

In 1990, Lloyd King and his wife Barbara were counting down the 18 months until his retirement. A few days before Christmas, they received a phone call that would turn their world upside down. “Our son had just gotten out of drug rehab. He was a new father with a 3-month-old son named William,” remembered Lloyd. A doctor was admitting William to the hospital for being well below weight for his age. “I guess either the doctor or someone on the hospital staff called Child Protective Services (CPS). My son told me that CPS was taking William unless he could find someone willing and able to be responsible for him,” said Lloyd.

The boy’s mother wanted nothing to do with William, and the Kings’ son was not considered fit to be a single parent. Lloyd and Barbara had two weeks to make a decision. Forty-eight hours later they brought William to his new home—their home in Paradise, CA.

The Kings quickly realized they had more questions than answers. “While we were going through this, there was precious little information to be had, and what was available was not easy to find,” Lloyd lamented. “This was 30 years ago, so the Internet wasn’t something we really even knew about. Finding any documented resources was difficult at best.” They set out to educate themselves.

Lloyd and Barbara felt called to share with others in similar situations what they learned about raising grandchildren. That included networking to find resources such as legal assistance, counseling, food, health insurance, and help for special needs. They created a support group, Grandparents as Parents (GAP), in Paradise, bringing it in 2008 to New Horizon Christian Fellowship, a Calvary Chapel in Klamath Falls, OR. Everyone, believer or not, is welcomed at the monthly meetings. Senior Pastor Mike Voight said GAP fits firmly into the church’s vision for reaching the community. “The first step is to meet these families where they are and help them. That’s what we see GAP doing for grandparents trying to navigate through a very stressful and difficult situation,” he stated.

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land.” Ezekiel 22:30a

Old photo of a boy and his grandfather

Lloyd King shares a photo of himself and William, the grandson he and his wife raised.

 

Man and his grandfather look at an old photo

Now grown and doing well, Willliam reminisces over early days with Lloyd.

Struggles and Success

William, struggling physically, ended up wearing a sleep monitor for almost 14 months. Meanwhile, his mother sued to get William back, even though she had signed off on the guardianship papers. The Kings had to hire an attorney for a case involving time, energy, and money they weren’t sure they had. By the grace of God, Lloyd declared, the suit was resolved in their favor.

“When William was 12, he asked if we would adopt him,” Lloyd recalled. The mother wasn’t sure who the father was, so it took time for them to receive permission for the adoption. At 13, William became a King. Today he lives near Lloyd and Barbara. He graduated high school, obtained a degree in automotive repair from a community college, and manages a small business. William and his wife have purchased a house and are expecting a baby.

Helping Other Families

Through GAP, Lloyd and Barbara have met many other families with their own stories and challenges. Mark and Carol (not their real names) connected with GAP about seven years ago. “GAP is a really good resource for grandparents or any relatives as caregivers,” confirmed Carol. “What they provide in the way of speakers, materials, connections is all valuable. We get support, the group is confidential, and we all have different circumstances, but we can still help each other.”

Carol’s daughter Sandy has struggled with various mental and physical health issues; Carol believes her grandson Ryan suffered a brain injury after Sandy, while pregnant, was pushed downstairs. By the time Ryan was 2, Carol realized Sandy couldn’t deal with Ryan’s emotional and medical issues and his resultant behavior. Carol and Mark were 54 and 53 when they took Ryan in full-time.

“In addition to traumatic brain injury, he has ADHD, pervasive developmental disorder which is on the low end of the spectrum for autism, and reactive attachment disorder,” stated Carol. “The resulting behavior can be pretty scary at times, including loss of impulse control. Most of the time the incidents happened at school or at home, but if it happened in a grocery store or the mall and we couldn’t calm him down, we’d just go home. Worrying about it happening in public made it pretty stressful.”

Long before, God had equipped Carol for the challenges of caring for Ryan. She had prior family experience with a sibling’s behavioral disorders, had worked in a facility with troubled teens, has a social sciences degree, and attended many training sessions. Ryan’s been in Head Start and a program called Early Intervention and has had mental health therapy from Pre-K on. If he’s in a regular school, he has resource teachers from various services who work with the school. “Because of the various disorders, you can’t function like you would normally,” shared Carol. “For example, if we were going on a day trip, we could only tell him the night before. If we told him too far in advance, he would obsess about going with us instead of going to school. It was to such an extreme that I can’t really explain it,” reflected Carol.

Now 17, Ryan looks like a normal teenager, which in some ways makes it more difficult. Explained Carol, “He got in with the wrong crowd, and they introduced him to marijuana. That made him forget things, more so than usual. He loses track of time and where he’s supposed to be.” The police searched for him at least once.

A Commitment and a Blessing

Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1b-2

Pete and his wife Nancy eagerly share what they’ve learned through GAP. Their story started with a granddaughter who was struggling with life in general and with marijuana use. Responding to her call for help, Pete found himself in a bad part of town where she was “couch-hopping.” He convinced her to let him take her son Troy, his 18-month-old great-grandson, with him.

Boy hugging his grandfather

Pete and his wife Nancy raised their great-grandson Troy for a time. Both participate in the Grandparents as Parents (GAP) support group started by Lloyd and Barbara King.

“One of my suggestions to those who find themselves in this situation is to find a support group,” advised Pete. “This would have been way more difficult without GAP. We had no idea what to do, and they were very helpful. Lloyd has been doing this for many years and is a wealth of knowledge.”

Pete also shared that grandparents—or any kin thinking of raising children not their own—need to seriously consider the realities. “They need to think about whether they can handle it emotionally and financially,” Pete remarked. “The child has to be able to rely on you, so you have to ask yourself if you will be committed to see it through.”

Raising a young person later in life can be an amazing blessing, but it can be painful. “Years ago, all the children made Mother’s Day cards in school. Troy brought his home and gave his card to Grandma,” said Pete wistfully. “That was hard for me, since he didn’t even think about his mom. I felt sorry for Troy.” When Pete thinks of his granddaughter, he is saddened because she literally has no idea what she’s missing.

Man and his grandson play with a basketball

Pete and Troy, who is an active boy, enjoy a rousing game of basketball together.

Troy is a smart young man involved in basketball, junior rodeo, and BMX bike racing. Pete is optimistic about Troy’s future but realistic as well—parental responsibility is a 24/7 job. “One challenge is what happens to Troy if something happens to us,” Pete had wondered. “Some nights I lay awake thinking about that very thing.” Pete affirmed that although taking care of his great-grandson required a big adjustment, he would have done it all over again. But as a result of some recent events, Troy’s grandparents, case manager, and therapist have all agreed that it is necessary to get him into care more suitable for his needs. Troy will now visit Pete and Nancy for a day every two to three weeks.

Pastor Mike Voight concluded, “Our core principles at New Horizon are based on the acronym “W-I-S-E”: Win a person to Christ, instruct a person to Christ, send a person in Christ, and encourage a person in Christ,” he related. “The ‘E’ stands for ‘encourage.’ We do that by ministering, caring for, loving, and serving people, and that’s just what GAP is there to do.”

New Horizon Christian Fellowship
newhorizoncf.org

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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