Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Grandmother Adjusts: She's a Mom Again; Woman, 53, Loves Her Granddaughter and Officially Adopts Her at Courthouse

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Grandmother Adjusts: She's a Mom Again; Woman, 53, Loves Her Granddaughter and Officially Adopts Her at Courthouse

Article excerpt

Byline: Meredith Rutland

Valerie Bailey last brought home an infant 27 years ago, but this Mother's Day, she'll be a new mom again.

Bailey stood before a judge Friday, her 8-month-old baby girl bouncing in her right arm.

The judge asked her why she wanted to adopt her granddaughter?

Because she's already her child in her heart, Bailey told him.

Bailey officially adopted her granddaughter, Journee, in a ceremony Friday at the Duval County Courthouse. Journee and 23 other children were adopted, some by foster parents, extended family members and grandparents.

Journee joins more than 2.6 million children in the U.S. living with grandparents who are responsible for raising them, according to the AARP. Florida accounts for 161,000 of those children.

In Jacksonville, 7,500 grandparents are responsible for the grandchildren living in their homes, according to the AARP.

That number has grown since before the recession, the 2010 U.S. Census showed.

Grandparents take in their grandchildren for a number of reasons, said Amy Goyer, an AARP consultant on family issues.

Addiction and mental illness are the biggest factors that keep a parent from being capable of caring for a child. Incarceration or military deployment also play a role.

Taking in the children provides a sense of relief because the grandparents know the children will be cared for, said Sue Bartolomeo, who runs the Grands Program for grandparents raising grandchildren in Palm Beach County. For those with temporary or permanent custody, they never know when the child could be taken from them. That's why some opt for adoption, when possible.

"They know they're going to school, they're learning. They aren't out on the streets with their parents," Bartolomeo said, "The parents can still come back and get the kids, and that's sort of the fear that they live with."

More often, entire families have moved in with grandparents since the recession. Parents who lost their jobs and homes may move their families in with their parents, and both parents and grandparents care for the children, Goyer said.

Having children in the house again is also physically demanding for those in their golden years, Bartolomeo said. Chasing around toddlers, lugging around diaper bags and staying up late with crying babies is difficult at any age, but especially so for grandparents.

Often, they neglect their own health in order to care for their grandchildren.

"No one plans to raise a second family. You don't plan your retirement that way," Goyer said "They're at that phase of their lives when they're probably working, they're looking forward to retirement and all of a sudden they're raising kids again."

Bailey, 53, will now be the caretaker for three of her grandchildren and her 85-year-old mother. …

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