Motherhood All Over Again
WILKES-BARRE, Penn. -- At age 56, Pittston resident Debbie Destefano is raising children again -- her three grandchildren, Evan, 13, Haley, 6, and Samuel, 1.
Ms. Destefano, who works fulltime for Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, joined about 250 people who attended the Northeastern Pennsylvania Intergenerational Coalition's third annual conference for grandparents raising their grandchildren. The event, co-led by state Rep. Keith R. McCall, D-122, Carbon County, and state Sen. Raphael J. Musto, D-14, Pittston, featured workshops and other programs to help struggling grandparents cope.
Ashley residents Nelson Reichard, 76, and wife, Jean, 73, attended a workshop on stress management. Instead of relaxing during their golden years, they have spent the last three years raising their 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Kylea. The couple, who receives Social Security payments, said it has been tough financially and physically at their ages to raise their great-granddaughter, but it also has been rewarding.
"She needs us. We couldn't have her end up in foster care," Mrs. Reichard said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and AARP, more than 165,000 children in Pennsylvania and more than 6 million children nationwide are being raised in households headed by grandparents. About 1.4 million grandparents raising their grandchildren nationwide are working and 477,000 earn incomes below the poverty level.
More grandparents are raising their grandchildren for several reasons, including parental illness, death, drug abuse, neglect, military service and economic hardships. They learn firsthand that money is tight and it's challenging to raise a child two generations younger, Mr. Musto said.
"Yet, grandparents also know they have a loved one to care for and a job to do, and they want to do that job to the best of their ability," he said.