Charity at home gets a lift

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2007

FRANKLIN—For grandparents undertaking the challenges of raising their grandchildren, there is support through the Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia.

The Grandparents/Relatives As Parents (GAP/RAP) support groups offer help addressing problems, needs and questions.

Participants do not have to be Catholic and do not have to have custody of the children to take advantage of the program, according to Program Coordinator Gail B. Vaden.

&uot;The child doesn’t have to be physically living under the same roof with you,&uot; she said. &uot;If a child gets off the bus at your house or you make meals for the child while the parent works — if you are any influence at all on the child, you can participate.&uot;

Relatives may be raising family member’s children for a number of reasons, including deaths or incarceration of the parents, abandonment by biological parents and substance abuse issues.

The program is for people rearing children ranging from infants to 18 years old.

For Diane Craddock of Walters, the program has been very informative and uplifting.

A single grandparent, Craddock works part to full time at Nansemond Pointe Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Suffolk. She has been raising Brandon Wade, 15, Jamie Wade, 14, and Michael Cook Jr., 6. Brandon and Jamie are her son, J.J. Wade’s children and Michael is her daughter, Michele Wade’s son. J.J. passed away Jan. 26, 2004 and Michele died May 20, 2004.

Craddock noted that although participants in the program share a bond and are going through the same thing generally, each has their own individual concerns and situations.

&uot;[Meeting with the others] gives you different scenarios of doing what is in the best interest of the child,&uot; she said. &uot;You find other avenues and resources that are available.

The group can bring it all out by sharing stories and encouraging each other,&uot; she said. &uot;We even plan fun activities. We have had a picnic and have taken a trip on the Spirit of Norfolk. There’s camaraderie even outside meeting time.&uot;

According to Vaden, the group helps with any concerns or problems the GAP or RAP people are facing.

&uot;We advocate for them,&uot; she said. &uot;We help them with any concerns they may have such as a court date or if the kids are having problems in school, or meeting their needs such as

housing or medical or clothes for the child—anything that’ll make everyday life easier for them.

&uot;When they’re meeting the needs of the children, they are happy.

&uot;It frees them up to do something for themselves,&uot; she said, noting that so often, guardians will put themselves on the backburner.

&uot;Kids age out of foster care,&uot; said Craddock. &uot;But, they don’t age out of family. A relative will be there to say, ‘I’ll help you.’&uot;

According to Vaden, statistics show that nationally that 6 million children are living with grandparents or other relatives; statewide, there are 60,000.

The group meets on the second Wednesdays of each month. Vaden said participants gather at 9:30 a.m. to sign in and socialize before the meeting gets under way at 10 a.m. Previously held at True Word Christian Church, beginning in July, the meetings will take place at Catholic Charities Franklin office at 121 S. Main St. downtown.

&uot;Confidentiality is key,&uot; said Vaden. &uot;No one uses the office on Wednesdays.&uot;

The July meeting will be kicked off with a workshop titled Parenting Grand Families, which is a six-week consecutive series running from 9:30 to noon.

The workshop has been conducted in the Newport News area and has been so successful, that a second part to the session is being planned.

Director of Older Adult Services Kathy L. Dial and intern Roshalle Cuffee of Norfolk State University are writing the curriculum for the addition to the workshop.

All workshops and meetings are free, however, there is no childcare available at this time.

For more information, contact Director of Older Adult Services Kathy L. Dial, 533-5217, ; Vaden, 757-875-0060,; or call the Franklin Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia office, 562-6222.