CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – “There’s no place like grandma’s house!” That’s the saying most say after a visit to their grandparents, but for many grandkids today, like Bobbie Johnson’s, it’s who they live with.
When asked if she would have ever imagined raising her grandkids one day, Bobbie’s answer was simple, “no.”
Yet, here she is after already raising three of her own.
“My husband and I had plans,” admitted Bobbie.
According to Bobbie she had mixed emotions when she found out her daughter was pregnant. On one hand she and her husband were excited to take on the honorary titles of grandma and grandpa. But at the same time…
“We knew our daughter was struggling with substance use disorder,” said Bobbie.
Little Alaina would make them first-time grandparents.
“Gosh, just fell in love with her the minute she was born,” said Bobbie smiling.
And Chase would quickly turn them into experts.
“We just thought things were on the up and up, but when Chase was born we definitely suspected that continued use was going,” said Bobbie.
Bobbie’s daughter needed treatment. But with the kids birth dad incarcerated, they didn’t have anyone else.
“At that time they were 14 months old and 4 days old,” said Bobbie.
Without a second thought, Bobbie and her husband stepped up.
“I had to relearn what formula to use…to sterilize the bottle. Also car seats, knowing how to put them in. My eyes don’t work as well as they used to and so the snaps on their onesies, super hard for me! Half the time they were snapped off.” Laughing, Bobbie admitted, “there’s a reason people say you should have children when you’re young.”
But after going to the doctor’s and talking with people in the community, she quickly learned that she was far from the only one in this position.
“Just in Clearfield County alone, 44% of grandparents here are raising their grandchildren,” said Bobbie.
They’re called “Kinship Care Givers,” and according to Bobbie many are doing it without any assistance.
The Area Agency on Aging has services to help those 55 and up, but not those just shy of that number, like her.
“Where do they go for help” asked Bobbie.
Deciding to become that answer, Bobbie created ‘REST.’
It stands for:
Transform kinship families.
“The point is to provide support and help where we can,” explained Bobbie. “Especially to informal kinship caregivers. Those would be the people honestly like ourselves who saw what was happening, intervened, sought emergency custody.”
All on their own, while with formal kinship caregivers the county removes the children from their parents, seeks out other family members, and places the kids in their care.
“And because of that, people do receive daily stipends to help with the financial burden,” said Bobbie.
Statistics show that for every one child that’s in a formal foster care setting. There are at least 10 children who are placed with families in an informal basis. Bobbie says these are the families left to bear the cost of things like diapers, bottles, formula and daycare.
REST provides support groups, informs caregivers about what resources are available to them in their community and facilitates bringing families back together again.
“Really I’m just so excited to share that my daughter is doing just amazingly well. She has recently got shared custody of the children back and she’s just flourishing,” said Bobbie.
Bobbie admits that it’s been hard chasing after two youngsters again, but she says if she had the chance to go back, she’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather and community events that matter to you.