Julia is the 67-year-old grandmother of Max, aged four. Over the past five years, Julia has watched helplessly as her daughter, Linda descended further and further into a world of drug addiction, failed relationships, domestic violence, and joblessness. Linda’s last boyfriend was recently arrested for assault. Instead of using his arrest as motivation to begin improving her life, Linda fell even deeper into drug use. Two weeks later, she was arrested on possession charges. Since this was her third arrest, she was now facing mandatory jail-time.
While Julia wants the best for her troubled daughter, her real concern is for her grandson. She knows that a foster care placement would be a risky proposition for Max and decides that she must assume the role of Max’s primary caregiver. However, Max is a troubled young boy, haunted by his exposure to violence, abuse, and his mother’s chronic drug use, and Julia worried about her ability to raise him. As a retiree, she has limited finances as well as health problems that make the idea of keeping up with a four-year-old daunting.
Through Social Services Julia learns about the Edgewood Center for Children and Families and its Kinship Support Network and the Edgewood Safe Start program, which exist to help relative caregivers like grandparents in raising the children that they are caring for, by filling in the gaps between various public services. Julia gained access to case management services that provided her with the legal assistance she needed to establish a permanent guardianship for Max, as well as links to important community resources such as summer camps. She gained access to a community health care nurse who provided free home visits for her and Max, and also to support groups for caregivers in similar situations to hers. Training workshops led by Edgewood staff members addressed parenting issues that she might encounter, and the network offers tutoring services, educational advocacy, and community-building recreational activities such as baseball games and barbecues.
Through Edgewood Safe Start, Julia was also able to obtain counseling services to begin addressing the lingering effects of Max’s exposure to violence. After being assessed by an Edgewood Center therapist, Julia began receiving weekly in-home visits from a clinician. Julia spent the next year talking through issues she was facing concerning the safety and stability of her family. When Max began to exhibit significant behavioral problems, the clinician was there to help her deal with them. Although Julia faced a long battle in trying to help her daughter back to a normal life, she could take comfort in the fact that she and Max, through the Kinship Network’s support, were well on the road to growing a nurturing life together.
Max’s mother continues to relapse and is in and out of drug courts and treatment. While this still impacts the family, Max has learned that it his not his fault and that mommy is sick and trying to learn to make better choices. Max has been given a voice and healthy alternatives on how to best express his feelings. Max understands that he is safe with his grandmother and that it is ok to both love and be mad at mommy. Max is now observed to be a more confident child that is able to make and keep friends, sleep and eat more regularly and be less hypervigilant. Max’s symptoms and behaviors have dramatically decreased. As a result, Julia is more patient and able to set appropriate boundaries for Max. Max and Julia have been able to establish a healthy and secure relationship that will allow Max to have healthy relationships in his future. This just one example of the many families that have been supported by Kinship and Safe Start. It has truly been a privilege and honor to work helping our families maintain healthy and safe homes, helping best to break the cycle of violence.