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Grandparents taking on parenting for the second time around

By Kimberly McBroom, kmcbroom@wdbj7.com
Published On: Oct 03 2013 07:28:12 PM EDT
Updated On: Oct 03 2013 08:57:49 PM EDT

Not ALL parents are able to take care of their own children, for one reason or another. Instead of letting their grandchildren go into foster care, more and more grandparents are stepping up to the plate.

Not all parents are able to take care of their own children, for one reason or another.

Instead of letting their grandchildren go into foster care, more and more grandparents are stepping up to the plate.

There's no denying a mother's love. In this case, the love of a grandmother.

"I've practically raised him all of his life. He's 10 years old and he's the most precious thing in my life,” Grandmother Jean Gearheart said.

HE is her grandson, Tre'.

Tre is a fifth grader who suffers from cerebral palsy. His parents aren't able to take care of him, so Jean is filling the void.

It's a labor of love, but she enjoys her time with him.

"So, I'll say ‘Tre, do you want to watch the race?’ And he'll just laugh and get happy. If it's something he don't like, he'll make this little, we call it a rabbit face, and he won't smile or nothing," Gearheart said.

Tre' requires 24-hour care, and Jean gets help with him through government assistance.

What she does badly need is a van that's wheelchair accessible.

It's tough, but she vows to take care of Tre' for the rest of her life.

And she's not alone in taking on the challenge of raising a grandchild.

The golden years are becoming child rearing years. In our state, more than 62,000 kids live in households where the grandparents are the head of household and are responsible for them.

The U.S. Census Bureau says more than 2.4 million grandparents reported being responsible for their grandchildren in 2000.

That number jumped to more than 2.7 million in 2010.

Butch and Irene Bryant have full custody of their 10 year- old granddaughter, Shayla.

Her mother is incarcerated, and the Bryants have provided a home for her since she was 18-months-old.

"She calls me Daddy, calls her grandma and calls her mommy 'mommy,’” Grandfather Butch Bryant said.

The Bryants say parenthood the second time around is time consuming, and sometimes a financial strain, but they weren't about to let anyone else raise their granddaughter.

"I said no, I'm not going to let her go into the system. I'm her granddaddy, so bring her here. And she got to be more of a daughter than she is a granddaughter,” Bryant said.

Both the Bryants and Jean Gearheart say if anything happens to them, they feel that other family members would take responsibility for the children.

Despite the challenges, raising their grandkids is a joy that they don't ever want to give up.

"He's just a blessing. I just, I just wouldn't have it any other way,” Gearheart said.

There are resources out there for grandparents like the Bryants and the Gearhearts.

The Prevention Council of Roanoke County is hosting the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Resource Conference Saturday, October 12 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Salem Family YMCA.

The conference costs 10 dollars per person, and includes lunch.