Finding Fellowship with Parents Second Time Around
At a time when folks in their later years should be enjoying retirement, some grandparents find themselves starting from scratch and raising their grandchildren. Many children in Connecticut find themselves without parents to raise them due to issues with drug addiction, incarceration and even the death of a parent. That’s where grandparents often step in.
As you may be able to imagine, raising young grandchildren comes with many challenges including a lack of resources, peer support, guidance and energy. The Salvation Army’s Parents Second Time Around program in Hartford, CT 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, CT is looking after 3 grandchildren – a 22-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. She shared that raising 3 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.
Eleanor from Hartford, CT is raising her 6-year-old great granddaughter. She thinks of the program as a support group and is able to 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, CT as well as the Hartford Carousel Museum in Bushnell Park.
Shelia from Manchester, CT 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 with,” Shelia said. “They are experiencing the same things we are experiencing, so that helps a lot.” When she started out 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 cooped up inside and 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.
All of the grandparents in the program love Ruby Brown, who they affectionately refer to as Miss Ruby. Ruby runs the Parents Second Time Around program. Miss Ruby enjoys getting people together and giving them an outlet to talk about problems that they might have. Miss Ruby said, “They share experiences among each other, which is great. They get a chance to laugh together.” At the end of the year, the group puts together a Christmas party, and everyone brings in their own dishes. “We have a lot of fun,” Miss Ruby shared.
Major Migdalia Lavenbein, Greater Hartford Area Services Coordinator for The Salvation Army 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. They are heroes to me. I see the devotion and dedication that they pour into their grandchildren to make sure their grandchildren are heading in the right direction.”
Parents Second Time Around supports over 75 family members annually. Many caregivers support multiple children. To find out more about this program, visit SalvationArmyCT.org.
Outreach – Opportunity for grandparents to enjoy a meal and fellowship as well as 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 are provided which teach holistic, caring dynamics.
Child Respite – Assists caregivers and kin in finding time to rest.