Grandparents raising grandchildren

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POSTED: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 9:25pm

UPDATED: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 11:39am

Dot Thibodeaux was in her fifties, when she was suddenly cast back into the role of provider for her young grandson.

"I felt very scared," Thibodeaux said. "I didn't know if I could do this, raise a child at my age."

Her daughter ran into hard times, struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs. She couldn't handle raising an energetic 12 year old boy on her own, so they both came to stay with Dot. A major change for everyone involved.

"Only supposed to be two weeks, but it ended up a lot longer than that," Thibodeaux said.

Dot's longtime friend, Winona Lejeune, found herself in the same boat when her two grandsons came down to live with her unexpectedly, ten years ago.

"A lot of people have misconceptions that there's a lot of programs," Lejeune said.

A lack of programs and state support, is something both women point to as major obstacles for grandfamilies.

"I couldn't find anything in the whole city of Baton Rouge that addressed grandparents raising grandkids," Thibodeaux said.

About seven percent of Louisiana families are headed by a grandparent, ranking us among the highest percentage in the nation. In search of a support group, Dot decided to create her own, calling it -- what else -- Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. A group to help others navigate through the difficulties of dealing with a child on a fixed income and also navigating the social programs, that can become overwhelming.

"A lot of time grandparents are too ashamed to ask for help," Lejeune said.

That's exactly why the group was created, to help those too uncomfortable to ask for help. They also have a friend in the state legislature. Senator Sharon Weston Broome, who they call their guardian angel, for her advocation of their cause.

Being a grandfamily can prove difficult for adults and children at times, but these ladies will tell you, it's worth the effort.

Click here if you would like to help support grandfamilies, or you are a grandparent in search of help.

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