The number of grandparents taking responsibility for their grandchildren is growing. In fact, according to some, it is reaching epidemic proportions both here and across the country.
The issues vary, but more often than ever before you see guardianship of children shifting from parents to grandchildren and, in some cases, aunts and uncles.
Having advocates who help grandparents make the transition to parents for a second time is vital, both financially and emotionally.
Enter Lesia Henderson, family caregiver support specialist with the Sampson County Department of Aging. It is Henderson’s job to assist with that transition, paving the way for older adults to assume roles as caregiver, disciplinarian, teacher and nurturer for their siblings’ children or, more often than not, their children’s children.
Rather than the cherished role of a grandparent, many older adults are back to changing diapers, cooking meals, packing lunch boxes and serving as driver for their younger charges. And in many cases, the roles they’ve assumed come with expenses they can ill afford.
In her role at the Department of Aging Henderson paves the way for financial and emotional support through the Family Caregiver Support Program, which provides help with purchasing school supplies and gifts at Christmas, in addition to education and that listening ear that sometimes is most important for guardians to have.
But Henderson, who recently received the ASPIRE “Making The Difference” award for her work with the program, goes far beyond the job description that goes along with her position. In fact, Henderson would help grandparent raising grandchildren even if her job didn’t call for her to be a part of their lives.
That’s just who Henderson is: a woman driven by a need to make life better for others.
ASPIRE assists individuals and families attain the skills and knowledge needed to rise above poverty, with a goal of guiding individuals with mentorships, training and support.
Henderson is quick to do all three, and then some.
When she says, as she did in a recent Sampson Independent article, that it is rewarding to help people, she means it. When she notes that “it’s nice to know you have provided assistance and protection to those who are in need,” it’s not just words.
Henderson has tremendous affection — and understanding — for those who have assumed greater responsibility in the lives of youngsters who have been, for whatever reason, removed from their parents’ care. And she has parlayed that affection into actions that benefit this same group of people.
While grandparents are now helping to raise their grandchildren, Henderson is right there helping ensure that they have the tools they need to do so.
It goes beyond a job for Henderson; it’s a lifelong commitment to helping others, a trickle down effect that, in this case, benefits both the grandparents and the children they are charged with caring for.
Henderson is very deserving of the award she was given, and she has earned our thanks for helping to make life for others better. There’s no question she has, and continues to, make a difference.