Dorothy was initially unprepared to raise her grandchildren. Her daughter died suddenly ten years ago of a brain aneurysm, after a battle with drug abuse. Dorothy took custody of her 3 year old granddaughter, and 10 and 18 year old grandsons. She had helped raise four other grandchildren, but her daughter’s death left her in a difficult financial situation and with full-time responsibility for the children. Despite working for the same company for thirty years and her big retirement dreams, Dorothy agreed to serve as “mother” for the second time.
Caring for children full-time meant significant changes for Dorothy. She had to stop working to provide around-the-clock care for the children. Yet, she still needed to find a way to provide for their needs and adequate housing for her family of four. On top of that, she needed to find a way to fund her oldest grandson’s college education. To make all of this possible, she knew she needed change in her housing situation. Fortunately, she learned of a new building project by Presbyterian Senior Services. The new facility was the first group of apartments in the country built from the ground up specifically for grandparents raising grandchildren. For Dorothy the move meant “a change of life” for her grandchildren. To her delight, everything from tutoring to day care is available to the family under one roof.
Of the building project by Presbyterian Senior Services, Dorothy says, “I just cannot tell you how the apartments are, I love them to death.” Housing assistance meant that Dorothy could focus her energy on her grandchildren’s emotional and educational needs. Dorothy’s unending commitment to her children and grandchildren’s education has brought its rewards. Today, she is the proud mother of an English professor, a psychiatrist, and the proud grandmother of a grandson with a PhD in English.
Dorothy is fortunate to live in South Bronx, New York which is home to one of few housing programs created to provide help to grandparents and other relatives raising grandchildren. These grandparents face special challenges. Children often come into their care unexpectedly and homes may be too small to accommodate the larger family. Others may live in senior housing where children are not allowed. Nearly 20% of grandparents raising grandchildren who rent their homes spend more than half of their income on rent. Federal and state policies that support special housing for grandparents or other relatives raising grandchildren can help provide stability for families like Dorothy’s.