Program offers support to grandparents raising children

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - More grandparents are finding themselves raising children. But they don't have to make a go of it alone. Grandparent Connection in Chesterfield offers meet and greets and low cost activities.

It's safe to say, Henry Mack has his hands full.

"It's rewarding. It's a challenge," said Mack.

The retired Vietnam Vet is now raising an 8-year-old girl, his granddaughter, Aysia.

"They are high energy and the learning curve expectation is a lot greater than when I was in elementary and middle school and even college," said Mack.

Mack said Aysia's mother and father are still in her life, but he's taken on the parental role, for now.

He found support in Grandparent Connection, a program Chesterfield offers to help people just like him. The goal is to find inexpensive group activities like Putt Putt for grandparents raising children.

Instead of a monthly meeting at the juvenile courts building, Grandparent Connection is hosting a play date at Putt Putt on Midlothian on Saturday. Mack won't miss it. Aysia will get to play, while he meets others in the same boat.

"You can share ideas and plus you can learn ideas," said Mack.

"They're glad to have the grandchildren because they really want to provide that opportunity but they don't have the finances to do it, especially if they're on Medicare and they're raising a grandchild," said Debbie Leidheiser, who heads up the program.

Right now, there are two and a half million households with grandparents raising children in America. The circumstances vary, from the death of the parent to substance abuse problems and divorce.

"Some of the people in our group have custody of the children, some of them don't, but they're still raising that child because there's a need and they're trying to keep the child out of the system," said Leidheiser.

Mack said he wanted to give Aysia the same opportunities he gave his own daughter.

"It's an investment. Sometimes you want to cut corners but I guess you reap what you sow. What you invest today will pay dividends tomorrow," said Mack.

If you'd like more information about Grandparent Connection or Saturday's event call 768-7878. Grandparents from metro-Richmond can take part.

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