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Grandparents helping grandparents

New group forms to help those taking care of children

by: LORI KIMBELL/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - A new support group, the Joys and Challenges of Raising Grandchildren, has formed. Shown in the photograph above, Kathleen Paterno visits with members of their support group.

While some Crook County grandparents are preparing for retirement, others are changing diapers and warming bottles all over again.
   On Monday, Jan. 10, a group of about five grandparents raising their grandchildren met at the Family Resource Center to share their experiences, hardships, and stories with one another.
   According to the US Census data in 2000, approximately 2.35 million grandparents are responsible for raising one or more of their grandchildren.
   In Oregon during 2000, 51,169 grandparents lived in a household with their grandchildren.
   "I definitely believe it (the number of grandparents raising grandchildren) is increasing. I've been in a situation myself where I've been taking care of a grandchild for about the last three years," said Kathleen Paterno, founder of the support group.
   Paterno realized there were more grandparents raising their grandchildren after reuniting with a friend at Crooked River Park.
   She told her friend she was at the park with her granddaughter and her friend replied she was there with three of her grandchildren, whom she was raising also.
   "We got to talking and I said, I wonder how many of us are out there," Paterno recalled.
   She continued to find grandparents who were raising their grandchildren and wanted to form a support group.
   "It's one of those things that kept working at me. Because of my business, I have this compulsion to support people and encourage them," Paterno said of the challenge. She is the owner of Breakthrough Coaching, LLC.
   "I wanted a way to get grandparents together and just talk," said Paterno.
   The founder wants grandparents to develop a "toolbox" of tips and resources from hearing others with similar stories.
   She believes it is emotionally and physically hard on the grandparents to start raising their grandchildren.
   "It's such a great challenge to suddenly have your life flipped upside-down and start re-raising children. It's a wonderful gift to those kids, but it can be an incredibly difficult trauma for people who are in their 50's, 60's, or 70's to suddenly find themselves with the same issues they thought they were through with," Paterno explained.
   Paterno believes that drugs are a common link on why grandparents inherit their grandchildren.
   "That is the big heartbreak about this generation of children... Some have been lost in this dark hole that has made them incapable of raising their own children, staying married, or even having a career. Just because they may not be able to do those things doesn't mean they don't procreate though," she joked.
   Grandparents that are living on a fixed-income have to deal with the financial hardships of taking care of their grandchildren.
   "I know a lot of other people have financial issues, where maybe they're living on a fixed income, or had to go back to work after they retired, or are delaying their retirement."
   With all the hardships the grandparents endure, Paterno wants to keep the support group positive and uplifting.
   "My main intent is to help people tap into their own inner-strength and not give up on ourselves so easy sometimes," she said. "If we have somebody that can help us tap into what we have inside of us, that is the greatest thing we can discover. We do have an ability to appreciate the gifts that our grandchildren are giving us," Paterno continued. The support group, "Joys and Challenges of Raising Grandchildren," will meet at the Family Resource Center the second Monday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The group is limited to 15 participants and a registration form is available at the Family Resource Center.