There may be at least 500 grandparents in Lehigh Acres who have suddenly found themselves in a position where they have taken on the responsibilities of raising their grandchildren because the child's or children's parents are unable to do so for several reasons which include divorce, death, drugs, incarceration or if a child is abandoned.
M. Yolanda Beckworth is a grandmother who found herself in that situation when a daughter was murdered by her boyfriend. She took her daughter's two children and raised them to adulthood. And through that experience, she said there were situations where she needed help and didn't know where to turn to for resources.
"It's not easy for a single grandparent or even both grandparents to find themselves responsible for raising their grandchildren. You've raised your own children and then something happens that causes you to step in and become a parent again, or else face the possibility of seeing your grandchildren put in foster homes or even adopted," Beckworth said.
M. Yolanda Beckworth
Having raised her late daughter's son and daughter, Beckworth said there was a need to help grandparents who are now "parents" again.
She formed a nonprofit organization called The Ol'geta Beckworth Foundation Inc., also known as GRIP standing for "grandparents returning into parenting."
Beckworth has college degrees in education and business administration. And for 7 1/2 years, was a teacher in the classroom and that experience plus her constant research into psychology, she believes her organization can fill a void.
She said GRIP is active in Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee, and Palm Beach counties and in Sarasota.
Now a widow, she finds herself busy most of the time working with grandparents, helping them to find resources and to gain knowledge on raising children today.
"Raising kids today is a lot different than it was a generation ago and even before that," she said. With children now in your home, you are forced to become aware of rules of discipline, working with the children's' teachers and being able to make sure the children receive the proper values and proper medical and dental care. And there are other areas that grandparents need to know about. It is not an easy job for most grandparents today," she said.
When parents lose their children due to death, drugs, legal problems that require parents being jailed or put in prison and abandonment, Beckworth says that is a "point of no return" and reality sets in that if you as a grandparent have taken on these responsibilities, there will be so many issues that grandparents may not know who to turn to for help.
Her Ol'geta Beckworth Foundation, through GRIP helps to provide relief programs and assistance to grandparents that have taken on the additional responsibility of full-time child care. That assistance includes information and help in housing, education, health care, clothing, child care, crime and drug prevention, transportation, economics, employment skills and how to get scholarships for the kids with goals to press forward with their education.
"Many grandparents are on fixed incomes and the introduction of young children in the home plus the extra costs to provide clothing and other things can be a real problem. At GRIP, we can give them guidance in working with a budget and ways there may be for additional income from other sources to help.
Beckworth believes that with God's help, the foundation and GRIP can help where help is needed.
She said the community-based programs are a very diverse group with one common concern, committed to gather under one shared interest for all of the grandparents that are in need. By providing effective screening, each of these entities brings its particular powers and abilities to the tremendous task of helping community based organizations develop the respectability of the individuals who have been neglected for so long.
Some of the topics offered to grandparents are part-time rent assistance, child care assistance, legal assistance, prescription assistance, medical assistance, food and grocery shopping help and transportation assistance, which includes a one-time sometimes for fuel and food when unexpected expenses drain a family's budget.
Beckworth wants to form a support group in Lehigh hopefully in September for grandparents who find themselves in this new role. The group will meet at the meeting room at the Sheriff's Bravo Substation on Homestead Rd. But to locate those grandparents who need help, she needs publicity to get the word out.
To help provide many of the services, GRIP has to depend on donations to the non-profit organization. Beckworth says there are costs for administrative work and other expenses. While they may not be high in costs, funds help to make the organization work. She also would appreciate the help of an attorney who would provide some of his or her time with the organization.
"Someone with knowledge of family law. That help would be a blessing," Beckworth said.
To reach Beckworth, the president and CEO and founder of the Ol'geta Beckworth Foundation Inc., call 368-6666. The fax number is 941-706-7134.
"Our main goal and the most important thing is to let grandparents in the community who are now raising their grandchildren know there is help available. If someone knows a person who is raising their grandchildren alone, please let them know about us," she said. "Even if there are older aunts and uncles who are raising their nieces and nephews or other young children, they can join us, too."