In a unique cultural exchange, Brooklyn grandparents raising their grandchildren had the opportunity to speak to a group of teens from Britain being raised by their grandparents.
The meeting was facilitated through the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS), at the Stanley and Rita J. Kaplan Center, 2020 Coney Island Avenue, where the Brooklyn grandparents who belong to the organization’s Kinship Care program meet weekly as part of a support group to discuss issues they face.
The stories they had to tell were touching.
One grandmother, 72, spoke of the two grandsons who live with her. One, she said, was succeeding in all he was trying to do; the other, still in high school, was having problems. He “hit a boy in school and was arrested,” she explained. “His mother is bipolar, and lives in Florida with her other two children. She would like it if I took the other two, too, but I can’t.”
Having the support group, she added, made her efforts easier. “I need an outlet,” she stressed. “I enjoy coming here every week. We’re all together. We celebrate birthdays and everything else.”
Another grandmother, now 78, said she’d brought her grandson home to live with her when he was a week old. She told her listeners that he was a generally good kid, “But he does nothing in the house,” she went on. “He dropped out of school because he worries about me, but he doesn’t open up to anybody. He went to work at Domino’s Pizza and he’s an assistant manager, but that’s not what I want for him. He wanted to be a doctor.”
A third said she’d been in the support group “for a while. It’s very important to me,” she attested. “You think your case is isolated then you find out everybody has the same problems. It has helped me to take care of my grandson even more.”
“The part that gets me is the mouth,” a fourth grandmother, 70, remarked. “They don’t know how to talk to adults. There’s no appreciation for what grandma did for them. Grandma gave up her life to raise them. I hope and pray that one day they’ll realize that grandma was there for them.”
The British organization, Kinship Cares, hails from Liverpool. It began in the 1980s as Parents Against Drug Abuse (PADA), and was formed in the wake of an increase in heroin usage in the country at that time, according to Pauline Thornley, the program director.
“We basically give grandparents a bit of a respite,” noted one of her companions. “The issues are the same, across the Atlantic.”
The meeting was “the first international visit we’ve had in our program,” said Deborah Langosch, program director for the Kinship Care program, and the chair of the Brooklyn Grandparents Coalition, who said the visit would give the two groups the opportunity to compare notes and learn, “What’s similar in both countries