Saturday, April 28, 2007

All Kinds of Families Need Supportive Services

By Bevanjae Kelley, a grandmother raising her two granddaughters and a board member of the Child Welfare Organizing Project in New York

We were experiencing an empty nest, and I was going back to school to get my degree before my granddaughters, 4-year-old Cyré and 14-month-old Ayanna, came to live with me. Their mother, my daughter, was struggling, unable to recover from a traumatic childhood incident.

My daughter didn’t get the help she needed, and the law said she had only 15 months to comply. She wasn’t ready after 15 months. She told me her lawyer never returned her calls and that everyone she talked to said she would never get her kids back. I didn’t know anything about the system and neither did she.

When the 15 months was up, I was pressured to adopt. I would have preferred to be the girls’ guardian and not have to adopt them. Then my daughter wouldn’t have needed to terminate her parental rights.

I love and care for those girls and do all I can to meet their special needs. Cyré has now been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and everything has been a roller coaster ride these past few years. Both girls have also been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder. I got help from a local program that serves families with children who have a mental illness. They help the family work through problems instead of calling ACS. They provide 24-hour access to a psychiatrist, a case manager who coordinated services with school, a respite provider who took the girls out three times a week, and a therapist who provided in-home family therapy once a week. We were part of that program for about two years and it was very helpful. We all have more coping strategies and things are so much better.

I really wish these same services could have been available to my daughter when the girls were young. Everything would have been different then.

No comments: