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More grandparents learning new roles

Ironton resident Joe Black and Alease Belcher of South Point have learned that sometimes the second time around is better than the first.

Tuesday, April 06, 1999

Ironton resident Joe Black and Alease Belcher of South Point have learned that sometimes the second time around is better than the first.

Both have started a second family by offering to take in and care for their relatives’ children.

Currently, Black raises his two eldest grandchildren – one is 8 and the other is 9 years old.

"When you’re raising a couple of grandchildren, you have a deeper appreciation for the child," Black said. "You’ve already come through it once and can spend more time with them. When you’re raising your children the first time, you’re trying to establish your career and keep the bills paid."

But Black, at age 50, is still active. He serves on Ironton City Council as well as participates in other activities.

"I try to take them along whenever I go somewhere," he said. "By and large, it’s been a good experience. The kids have had to adjust, but we get along good. Sometimes it gets a little stressful and it’s a little harder on the nerves. My patience isn’t as good as it was 20 years ago. It’s a challenge, but it’s very rewarding. They like to show me their school papers when they have done a good job. I compliment them on that and they like to know that grandpa is proud of them."

Raising a 15-year-old nephew can be a little more difficult than rearing a small child, Mrs. Belcher said.

But the 69-year-old said she enjoys teaching her nephew right from wrong.

"There are some bad days, but we’ve had a lot of good days," Mrs. Belcher said. "I got him when he was 2 months old, right after my husband died. I guess I got him to fill the void in my life."

This was not a first for Mrs. Belcher, however. Years earlier she had raised her granddaughter until she turned 12.

"It seems to be the norm now for grandparents to raise their grandchildren," she said. "But I’ve always loved children. I’m a mother of seven and I made five Easter baskets Sunday."

Grandparents can have a tremendous influence on the life of their grandchildren, both Black and Mrs. Belcher agreed.

Even if the grandparent isn’t the primary care giver, they can still participate in the development of a young person by being a strong role model.

"A grandparent’s role is very important in a grandchild’s upbringing," Black said. "It gives them a different perspective from another generation that they don’t always understand but hopefully they’ll remember."

And grandparents might even learn a thing or two, Mrs. Belcher added.

"There’s a lot of good advantages from having grandkids," she said. "They are more interested in sports than we used to be and the greatest thing I can see about having him is that it didn’t let me think of myself. He’s kept me young."

Black isn’t too sure about that.

"Several people say raising grandkids keeps you young, but my gray hair keeps getting grayer."

Many Ohioans and Americans are like Mrs. Belcher and Black. They must take responsibility for children in their later years.

Grandparents provide care for children in 10 percent of Ohio households with children, according to a recent report by the University of Cincinnati.

In 3 percent of those households, grandparents provided all of the care. Nationally, about 4 million children live in a household headed by a grandparent.

"Census Bureau data indicate that grandparent-headed families represent all socioeconomic levels and ethnic groups," said Margaret A. Hollidge, director of the Grandparent Information Center. "Grandparents are raising their grandchildren for a wide variety of reasons. Among them are drug or alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, death, divorce, parental joblessness, neglect, incarceration, child abuse, abandonment and AIDS."

Help is available for grandparent caregivers, though.

The American Association of Retired Persons will offer a workshop from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Grandview Inn, which will give practical advice to grandparents about raising grandchildren

Mrs. Hollidge will talk about different organizations which can help the grandparents, while Barbara Turpin of the Ohio Department of Human Services’ Office of Prevention, Protection and Self Reliance will discuss state programs.

Sharon Dolan from the Lawrence County Children’s Services and Ironton lawyer Mark McCown also will attend and make presentations on local programs and extraordinary legal issues that grandparent caregivers confront.