Grandmother steps up after a life changing call

At 57, Katherine West never expected she would be raising three small children. In March of this year, West received a call that changed her life. Her grandchildren, one boy, age 7, and two girls, ages 5 and 3, were removed from their home. A Division of Family & Children Services (DFCS) supervisor was concerned for their safety and West was granted custody of her three grandchildren through the Kinship Care program.

Kinship care refers to a temporary or permanent arrangement in which a relative or non-relative adult who has a long-standing relationship or bond with the child and/or family has taken over the full-time, substitute care of a child whose parents are unable or unwilling to do so. Many kinship caregivers across the state of Georgia are grandparents raising their grandchildren.

“The Kinship program and Kim Marie-Smith (DFCS Kinship Navigator) was such a blessing,” West said. “She helped out and now we receive child care and financial help for the kids.”

Bringing the children into her home was a big adjustment for the whole family. The days consisted of West getting up at 5 a.m. to get the kids ready for school, dropping the two oldest off at elementary school and the youngest at preschool. West continued to work and would pick the children up by 6 p.m. from their after-school program. They would go home, have dinner, take baths and then play until bedtime.

“I made a schedule to establish trust because they have been through so much,” she said. “I wanted them to understand that I was not going to leave them.”

The schedule included going to the park, movie nights, art days and walks around the neighborhood.

“They enjoy going on walks, so we would walk and pretend we were going on an adventure,” West said. “The relationship means a lot to me. We have established that trust and bond now, even though it was not easy.”

West stepped up when her grandchildren were in need. She never imagined that at 57, she would be raising three small children, but she received a blessing that she never saw coming. Her advice to other grandparents raising grandchildren is to take things one day at a time.

“It can be hard in the beginning readjusting your life to make room for your grandchildren,” she said. “Once you have the tools that you need, sit back and look at the smiles on their faces and the hugs they give. God blessed me with them and I did not realize it at first.”

To learn more about the DHS Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program, click here. This program assists grandparents raising grandchildren, as well as other relatives, with the child support application process.

And to learn more about the Kinship Navigator program, click here. This program serves as a one-stop shop for information and referral services to grandparents, relatives and other caregivers who are currently raising a child.