Local News

Grandparents Find Themselves Parenting Again

Posted December 15, 1999

— Many people dream of the peace and quiet retirement will bring, but a new trend finds older adults facing the chaos of raising young children instead, for the second time in their lives.

In the last 10 years, the number of children being raised by a grandparent has increased by 50 percent.

Drug or alcohol abuse among the natural parents is the most common reason for the increase.

Phyllis Boykin is raising four grandchildren; three of their fathers are in jail, and she says their mother -- her daughter -- is not responsible.

The 52-year-old Boykin, a retired hairdresser, says it is tough to keep up with the four grandchildren she is now raising, but she does.

"Their bone is my bone. Their flesh is my flesh," she says.

In North Carolina, grandparents are now raising 111,000 children.

Aging administrator Carolyn Tracy explains why. "We like to keep family together. We look to [an] older, wiser person that has had some experience that has already raised children," she says.

Boykin provides that for them. "I felt they needed stability and some structure in their lives and little things instilled in them," she says.

Boykin planned on spending her retirement and fixed income differently. Now her money and 100 percent of her time go to the children.

It is a challenge Boykin prays about with the children every morning. Amber, the oldest child, thanks God for her grandmother.

"She's loving," Amber says. "She takes care of me; she makes sure I don't get hurt." And as an added benefit, "she cooks real good."

There are daily struggles. Support groups that are popping up around the state help grandparents like Boykin get through them.

A new support group in Fayetteville helps grandparents learn "where you can get dollar meals at McDonald's, they were excited to share that," says Heather Ward, an information and referral specialist.

Grandparents also gather legal information about the court system and their rights.

Boykin now has legal custody of her four grandchildren and hopes she will help them all grow up to be productive citizens.

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