Grandparents raising grandchildren push for more state support
SAN ANTONIO – The state counts more than 6,000 kids across Texas who have been removed from their homes and are now being raised by grandparents.
The Trouble Shooters find out what’s being done on both the grassroots and state levels to help these families.
“I adopted them,” grandmother Mercedes Bristol says. “I adopted all five.”
While the kids do homework, she shares heartbreaking stories of fellow grandparents who are desperate to make ends meet.
"Some of them are just raising their grandchildren with social security,” Bristol says. "We have grandparents that are actually telling us they cut their medication in half to make it last so they could have extra money for food."
She and another grandmother founded San Antonio Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, the grassroots group behind a conference Thursday where grandparents could find some extra support.
"I'm working two jobs. I'm 73 years old,” says grandmother Betty Welch who attended the conference. “I'm working two jobs to be able to do this."
The Department of Family & Protective Services found that this fall, 6,408 kids across Texas are legally being raised by a grandparent with 762 living in Bexar County. That doesn’t even include informal arrangements among families.
"It looks like it's growing. And it's going to continue to grow,” says DFPS Commissioner Hank Whitman.
He says his staff came to the conference to listen to grandparents and identify their obstacles.
"Because we have a lot of programs and funding that we can help them with that they don't know about,” Whitman says.
State Senator Jose Menendez from San Antonio also attended the conference.
"They didn't wake up one day and say, 'I want to raise my grandkids.' It just got dropped in their lap,” he says.
On Monday, he plans to pre-file a bill that would have state money follow the child into kinship care.
"The state needs to say: if it weren't for these family members, these kids would be in foster care. We'd be paying anyway. Let's let that money follow the child,” State Sen. Menendez explains.
Apart from money, grandparents find themselves needing legal help. They’re learning to navigate powers of attorney and how to make medical decisions for their little ones.
“This conference is to let grandparents know that they're not alone. That we're all in this boat and we can make a difference together,” Bristol says.
The group holds several support groups across the city where grandparents can get help and also join forces to fight for more rights. Click here for the locations and schedule.
By EMILY BAUCUM