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Parents Second Time Around

Milagros and two of her grandchildren.

At a time when folks in their later years should be enjoying retirement, some grandparents in Connecticut have found themselves starting from scratch by raising their grandchildren. The parents are missing in action due to drug addiction, incarceration, and even the death. That’s where grandparents often step in.

Raising grandchildren presents many challenges, including a lack of resources, peer support, guidance, and energy. The Salvation Army’s Parents Second Time Around program in Hartford, Conn., provides relative caregivers the support necessary to raise and provide effective care for the children they are parenting. The support includes sharing information on how to be a parent today, educational sessions focused on well-being, child development, health and safety checks, mentoring, and providing caregivers and children with mental, physical, and spiritual support.

Milagros from Hartford, Conn., is one of those grandparents. She is looking after three grandchildren—a 22-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, and a 7-year-old boy. She said that raising three grandchildren isn’t easy, but the Parents Second Time Around program helps get her through.

“I enjoy it. We have time to get together and talk and share with other parents,” said Milagros. She also finds it helpful to learn about resources and events for children in the community.

 

Out and about

Eleanor, also from Hartford, is raising her 6-year-old great granddaughter. She thinks of the program as a support group and can share challenges with others in her situation. Eleanor and her granddaughter are also able to share some quality time together.

“My granddaughter looks forward to the trips we make with other grandparents and children,” said Eleanor. Trips are made during the year and include a train ride to New Haven, a boat ride, and visiting the Salvation Army’s Camp CONNRI in Ashford, Conn., as well as the Hartford Carousel Museum in Bushnell Park.

Shelia, a grandparent from Manchester, Conn., originally started in the program in Hartford and has stuck with it.

“What I like the most is the fact that we have grownups to talk to,” Shelia said. “They are experiencing the same things we are experiencing, so that helps a lot.”

When she started several years ago, she raised a grandchild who is now 19 years old. Currently, she is raising a 10-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl.

“Times have changed but grandparenting hasn’t. You still need that support,” she said.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, grandparents and children were unable to meet in person. However, they were still able to meet over the phone and found support with each other and programs being offered in the area.

 

Close-knit group

All the grandparents in the program love Ruby Brown, who they refer to as “Miss Ruby.” She runs the Parents Second Time Around program and enjoys getting people together and giving them an outlet to talk about problems that they might have.

“They share experiences among each other, which is great. They get a chance to laugh together,” she said.

At the end of the year, the group puts together a Christmas party, and everyone brings their own dishes.

Major Migdalia Lavenbein, coordinator of the Salvation Army’s Greater Hartford Area Services, is in awe of the grandparents in the program.

“I think the program is just so impactful—to see the dedication they have to their grandchildren really is so inspiring,” she said. “They are heroes to me. I see the devotion and dedication that they pour into their grandchildren to make sure they are heading in the right direction.”

by Laura A. Krueger
Michael Baldelli photo

Parents Second Time Around supports more than 75 family members annually. Many caregivers support multiple children. To find out more about this program, visit SalvationArmyCT.org.

PROGRAM OBJECTIVES:

      • Outreach—Opportunity for grandparents to enjoy a meal and fellowship as well as gain connection to needed services.
      • Caregiver Counseling—Personalized support and guidance when there are decisions to make and problems to solve.
      • Caregiver Support—Personalized support and care given to caregivers so that they don’t feel alone.
      • Caregiver Training—Educational and/or beneficial leisure activities that teach holistic, caring dynamics.
      • Child Respite—Assists caregivers and kin in finding time to rest.