Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn, and seniors find themselves responsible for raising a second family. Nancy Dutcher, PV resident, and her husband found themselves taking care of two grandchildren, now aged 15 and 13 - even before retiring in 2003 - and a third child, now 5 years old. They eventually took full custody after their daughter died last year of brain cancer.
"It's been a challenge. We feel blessed we get to spend time with our grandchildren 24/7 and make a positive impact on their lives," Dutcher said. "We're not able to take on the grandparent role, spoiling them and then sending them home."
She described the children as happy, very well-rounded, and secure. The security part is especially important, she said, when there are absentee parents.
"They need to have that secure feeling that somebody is there to take care of their needs and love them, then everything else falls in place," she said.
Apparently the Dutchers' energy level isn't an issue - two years ago they took a 60-day, 9,000-mile journey to Pennsylvania in a small trailer, which Nancy described as memorable and a lot of fun.
She said a grandparents raising grandchildren support group has been very helpful. It meets from 10-11:30 a.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month when school is in session at the Humboldt Unified School District Family Resource Center at the HUSD District Office on 6411 N. Robert Road. Meetings are confidential and incredibly helpful, Dutcher said.
To others in similar situations, she advises, "Don't give up. Cherish those moments. A lot of people think they couldn't do it, but given the alternatives - going into foster care or separated - we did not want that to happen to these children. You do what you need to do. They're family. You can't turn your back on these kids.
"I think if we didn't have the children and it was just my husband and I, we would drive each other crazy. The children have been such an intricate part of our lives, we don't know what we would do without them."
For more information about Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, call Sylva Ducharme at 759-5109 or email email@example.com.