I was flummoxed at the individuals who felt it was their duty to just hop in there and kibbitz! These folks had no grandchildren living with them, and in some cases were either older individuals with NO grandchildren or even adult children, or adult children who had lost custody of their children to grandparents.
Why didn't the administrators clean this up right away? Got me. Perhaps they felt they were affecting freedom of speech. Perhaps they wanted the bodies for web hits. I don't know. But there was a lot of bad advice out there, given to grandmas who had the best interest of their grandchildren at heart as well as the right instincts. Experience does that for people.
In an effort to assist such grandmas in their quest for safety and stability of their grandchildren, I've decided to take on some of these myths:
- You need to let your child raise his own children, no matter what is happening to them. That's the way God intended it, and you are interfering in a family. God did not intend anybody, especially babies and toddlers, let alone older children and teens, to be neglected or abused. If you do not intervene, who will? Do you want it to be your local police department after your adult child has permanently harmed or even killed your grandchildren?
- You need to get your adult child the help he or she needs, and then give the grandchildren back to him or her. You can offer an adult help. You can't make that same adult take the help. Sometimes, the law will prohibit you from helping a teen, minor though her or she may be, if said teen doesn't want the help. Some people are just plain mean, even our own adult children. Some have mental illnesses, or are on drugs, or are alcoholics. They don't believe they have an illness, and won't consider treatment. What do you want grandparents to do, club them over the head and drag them to rehab? Were it that easy! And what, pray tell, do you expect those children to do while they wait for Mom or Dad to get her or his act together? How long are they expected to wait? I've said it dozens of times, children don't wait. They can't be thrown in the closet or tossed in the toy box because Mom or Dad is too busy enjoying drugs or booze or sex to tend to them. Some parents never get it together! Their kids will be dead, or fifteen years old and on the same path.
- Remember, it's your adult child's illness, not the adult child. Cut them a break. Yes, to a certain degree that's true. But we live in an age where mental illness is treatable, where drug abuse is treatable, where alcoholism is treatable. Yes, many adult children with these problems are in denial. Should their own children wait upon them to come to their senses and seek the help they need? The grandchildren in question might be dead of abuse or neglect by then! If you need more help with this statement, I urge you to run, not walk, to an Al-Anon meeting today.
- You need to do what I did in my state or province. You need to find out the law in your particular state or province. What works in Ontario doesn't work in Chicago. What works in Chicago may not work in Houston. What works in Houston will not work in Hoboken. The best person to tell you what will work in your state and area is an attorney. Interview at least three, preferably as many as you have time to interview, and retain the one who seems to have the experience matched to your needs and personality as well as bank account. Keep a list of the other prospects you felt qualified in case your first choice doesn't work out.
- You need to call child protective services. You must call protective services. Not necessarily. Some states mandate that protective services have a hand in the pie of every case of children abused or neglected. Some states allow grandparents to pursue private options in the courts. Many protective service agencies are at best overworked and understaffed. Some states use social workers trained specifically in child abuse and neglect. Other states hire any live body with a bachelor degree, give a 40 hour course, and send the new caseworker (not social worker) out to conduct interviews with a case load of over 500 files. Some states hire patronage workers who have done a political favor for the current majority party. Why take a chance? Call an attorney, first, and collect plenty of evidence.
- You shouldn't use government benefits for your grandchildren. Really? People who say this, you want to ask them how much they plan to give you every month to raise your grandchildren! If you can afford to raise your grandchildren, that's jim-dandy. If you are on a fixed income, if your state mandates the grandchildren must receive benefits in order to collect child support from your adult child, at least go apply. As I've previously said, by law your income doesn't count on certain government benefits.
- Adopting your grandchildren will deny you government benefits, as well as cause psychological damage to the children in question. Giving a child permanence and stability, which is what adoption does, hardly constitutes child abuse. Though each state is different, many states have special benefit packages for adopting related children, older children and children with special needs. You are saving the state money in foster care. Although the IRS is reviewing each case under the present administration, the law currently states that while stepparents may not claim the adoption credit, nothing in the law states grandparents who adopt can't claim the credit.
- What are you afraid of? You could use the break. Let your adult child see the kids! Let him or her take the kids places! We are afraid of what occurred at the hands of or neglect by the adult child in the first place, that caused the present situation, or worse. I would never recommend allowing the adult child to see the custodial grandchildren without a court-ordered visitation schedule, and then not in my home or the home of the adult child, but in a neutral place, preferably supervised by a professional (paid, by the court or by the adult child) visitation supervisor.
- People can change. You really need to give your adult child a break. It's been years since this happened. Without evidence to you that the adult child has indeed changed, not the mere say-so of said adult child or a well-meaning friend, you are opening your grandchildren and yourself to more of the same abuse and/ or neglect. Don't do it. If the adoption is final and a closed adoption, leave it that way. If you have guardianship, ditto, unless there is a court order (and that's doubtful).