Betty* is 70 years old and has cared for her 12 year old grandson, Adam, since he was a baby. He spent the first six months of his life in foster care because his mother was addicted to methamphetamine. Betty suspects that Adam’s mother continues to use drugs, and she has never been a real presence in his life. He has never had contact with his father.

Betty felt unable to seek support for her little family. She had informal custody and was afraid that the state might contact Adam’s mother for child support, or that she might lose custody. She did not want to be a burden. For nearly 12 years, she raised him alone on her $761 a month Social Security check and what little she could earn as a part-time waitress. Eventually, Betty and Adam lost their home, because Betty was unable to pay the rent.

Like Betty, many grandparents raising children take them in at short notice, so there is no time for financial planning. Relatives are often afraid that if they ask for help they will lose custody, so they remain unaware of the resources that may be available, such as Social Security, TANF, and state programs specifically designed for families in their situation. When Betty was finally connected with the resources available in her state by the Kinship Caregiver Support Program, she found: TANF payments and medical care for Adam; job training for herself; safe, affordable housing for both of them, and; a little extra financial help at Christmas time.

-This story was shared by Shelly Willis, coordinator for the Kinship Caregivers Support Program of Lewis-Mason and Thurston Counties

* Names have been changed