GRANDPARENTS: How Would You Respond To A Call For Help?

Like so many other family relationships, the role of a grandparent frequently looks much different today than it did when I was growing up.  It was a treat to go visit grandma, to spend some time playing in the apricot tree in her backyard and having a slice of her homemade apple schnitzel. A carefree afternoon spent with my senior citizen grandma was a simple time of joy.

Today many grandparents face new challenges that were so infrequent in my youth.  More and more grandparents are receiving the call for help.  In Arizona, the Department of Child Safety puts out the request to kinship providers numerous times every day.  “We have custody of your (fill in the number) grandchildren.  Can you take them in and provide a safe and loving home?”

As a grandparent myself now, I know my response would be “Bring them to me.  I will love and support them.”  The truth is, however, that grandparents and other relatives who say YES aren’t prepared to change their lives in a moment to accommodate all the needs of these boys and girls.  Across all socioeconomic levels, opioids have had a major impact on our society.  Children’s lives have been rendered unsafe due to drug use of biological parents.  We all know of men and women whose lives have been affected, and have stepped up to help these children.

Dan Shufelt with Baby M, now being cared for by grandparents

Arizona Helping Hands is here to assist those midnight calls for help.  We provided 3,560 beds and cribs to children in foster care in 2019.  More than half of those beds went to kinship providers who didn’t have nine months’ notice to prepare for new additions to their household.  Could you afford to provide beds for your 3 grandchildren tomorrow?  What about clothing, diapers, school supplies, birthday gifts and more?  That’s what we do at Arizona Helping Hands every day of the year.

So many have been hit by this scourge on our society.  We all know people affected by foster care.  When a former client of mine, a successful business owner who was looking forward to cutting back and enjoying retirement showed up at our front door for services, we threw open the doors to help.  They got the call that their two teenage grandchildren were in unsafe conditions.  Grandma and grandpa said YES, and pushed the clock back on their hopes of a carefree retirement filled with cruises and relaxing days.  They now are dealing with counselors, challenges at school and teenage hormones.

When John learned his substance abusing daughter was having a child, my friend told him to reach out to Arizona Helping Hands for assistance.  Now raising two grandchildren, we have been there to help to ease the road.

I can’t fully comprehend the strain on those who are older than I as they step into the 24/7 parent role.  Charles, a 75-year-old retired marine told me he was playing golf last week.  This week he is changing his 9-month-old grandchild’s diapers and doing homework with the 1st grader.  Great-grandpa in one moment, “Dad”, caregiver, nurturer, and baby rocker the next. Living on a military pension, he was so relieved to know that Arizona Helping Hands is here to help.  In his case we provided a crib, a twin bed, clothing and diapers along with words of support and encouragement for this new chapter of life.

Should you get that call, know that there is an organization that will help.  From our 18,000 square foot warehouse in north Phoenix, we assist foster parents and kinship providers with essential needs to bring safety, permanency and health to boys and girls.  Seeing little Carson ask “Am I going to have my own bed?” of his grandma, and hearing Winston exclaim “I love my new bike!” lets our team know that the work we do every day for the children – and for the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and foster parents – is the most important service we could provide.  It’s a bit of hope for those boys and girls, and it’s a sigh of relief for the grandparents who respond to that call for help.

Arizona Helping Hands is a Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organization (QFCO#10003) and, as such, donations from Arizona taxpayers qualify for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on your state tax return.  Learn more and donate today at www.azhelpinghands.org.

Dan Shufelt is the President & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care. Learn more about the Organization at www.azhelpinghands.org and contact Dan at dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org

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