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Grandparents as caregivers on the rise in TN

11:44 PM, Feb 18, 2013   |    comments
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In 10 years, the number of grandparents raising grandchildren has almost doubled both across the country and locally.

In Tennessee, the U.S. Census reports more than 140,000 children living in their grandparents' homes.

The House of Hope, a children's advocacy center in Cumberland County, sees the number of grandparents asking for help increasing by the year.

House of Hope Director, Denise Melton, believes drugs are the culprit.

"We are losing a generation of parents due to the drug epidemic. And if we are not helpful, and if we do not handle this properly, all those children attached to the parents using drugs, it's going to triple," Melton said.

Shelia Price has felt the affects of drugs on her family. She is the primary caregiver for her two granddaughters.

"Their mom, my daughter, she's turned to drugs. She was dragging the kids here, there and everywhere and pretty much just walked off and left them," Price said.

As a single grandmother, she says financially it's a struggle to get by.

"I've been to so many different people to try to get help or get custody," Price said.

But she can't afford an attorney to fight for custody. As a temporary guardian, she doesn't see all the benefits that her daughter can receive. She only recently received their medical information.

Shelia turned to House of Hope for support.

"They come to me to find food, they come to me to pay their electric or water bill, they come to me to get clothes for the children," said Melton about the grandparents she works with.

But Melton says House of Hope alone is not enough.

"You get children that are with their grandparents and the adult children have the medical cards and they have the food stamps," Melton said. "The only resource the grandparent has is to hire an attorney and try to get custody. And the minute the parents hear this might happen they will actually threaten to come in and take the children."

Melton believes drug testing for welfare recipients would solve many problems. She says if parents receiving welfare are cut off because of drug use, the children would be taken away. Then, the hope is, that the grandparents will receive the benefits for the children's sake.


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