EMQ FamiliesFirst Help and Hope for Kids in Crisis

What’s a Grandma to Do? Grandparenting Alone…Full-Time

Tommy was an angry little boy. He was already unhappy at how often his mommy was gone or didn’t pay attention to him. Now he and his sister Amy had been taken to live with his grandmother. A three-year-old knows how to have a tantrum, and Tommy was very practiced at outbursts of anger and frustration.

Grandmother Sheila, who went from quietly living alone in a small apartment to becoming, literally overnight, the sole caregiver of two confused and sad children, had her own rollercoaster of emotions to deal with—guilt that she hadn’t recognized the seriousness of her daughter’s substance abuse issues, love and worry about the welfare of the children, and feelings of anxiety at the parenting tasks ahead of her. She needed help.

At the suggestion of a county social worker, Sheila came to the Yolo Crisis Nursery for child care while she went to frequent medical appointments. She found so much more than “babysitting”—a lifeline of ideas and information on how to cope with her new intense parenting responsibilities.

“Sheila certainly had her hands full and didn’t have family or friends to help her,” said Heather Vasquez, family services coordinator for the Nursery. “Tommy was still in diapers so she couldn’t take him to a preschool with his sister. Sheila was with Tommy all day long and exhausted by his acting out behavior—hitting, kicking, not listening. His speech skills were poor and it was very hard to understand what he was saying, and that only increased his frustration and anger at everyone around him.”

“Tommy’s behavior is typical in children who have not had adults setting limits and following through on keeping to the rules,” Heather said. “He lacked social skills and couldn’t handle any kind of direction. It was survival mode for him—I want that toy no matter what I have to do to get it.”

Nursery staff worked closely with Sheila on parenting skills, starting with toilet training techniques. The Nursery’s hotline phone counseling service was available any time she needed advice on how to handle a situation, such as what to do when Tommy had a meltdown in the grocery store. In the safe, calm environment of his grandmother’s care Tommy began to thrive and in just six months behaved well enough to attend preschool. Speech therapy at school brought dramatic improvements in his ability to communicate.

“Tommy became a very different little boy in a short period of time,” Heather said. “He now looks us in the eye, smiles and chats, rather than thrashing about and throwing himself on the floor. He is amazingly good at puzzles and can focus calmly on them for long periods of time. Once he knew he could count on his grandmother and feel secure, the anger started to go away.”

Parenting is still a big job for Sheila, as it is for any caregiver of two small children. But now she knows she is not alone and that the Nursery staff will continue to be available to her when she needs help.

“I was so worried and stressed for my daughter and for the children placed in my care. I felt alone,” said Sheila. “Your help with resources, encouragement, and care for the children when I have appointments has helped so much. Bless you!”

What You Can Do to Help
The Yolo Crisis Nursery depends solely on community support to keep the doors open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We accept donations, both monetary and much-needed supplies, and have dedicated volunteers who support the work of the program. Local groups such as the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery are committed to fundraising for the Nursery and to building community awareness of child abuse and neglect prevention.

For more information on how you can help the Nursery, join the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, or to find out what’s on our wish list, please call (530) 753-0220, or click here.


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