Raising Grandkids in Retirement

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In the U.S., more than two million grandparents are raising grandchildren because their parents are battling disease, poverty or addiction. That reality led one church to create programs specifically for seniors parenting the second time around. Kim Riemland has more.

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(Locator: Chicago, Ill.)

After raising four children, 66-year-old Ray Rice thought he’d have time to bowl.

His wife, 69-year-old Christine Rice, looked forward to quilting.

But rest and relaxation…

(Picking the kids up from school)

…have given way to a new responsibility.

By necessity, they’re raising their grandchildren.

Christine Rice, Retired: “I retired a few years before I planned to, in order to stay home with them.”

(Preparing dinner)

The Rices stepped in to raise 12-year-old Christina and 17-year-old Casina after their mother had a nervous breakdown and lost her home.

Ray Rice, Retired Truck Driver: “They don’t ever want to experience living in a shelter again.”

The new arrangement took some getting used to.

Ray Rice: “It’s a whole new thing—the way that they act, the way that they talk.”

Casina Rice, Age 17: “Sometimes they don’t understand because of the generation gap.”

Christina Rice, Age 12: “It’s nothing bad, it’s just different.”

(Girls fold laundry)

The girls do chores around the house.

And the Rices’ church helps too.

Dorothy Jenkins, Fernwood United Methodist Church: “We don’t have a large congregation, but we do have at least five families in our church of grandparents raising grandchildren.”

Fernwood United Methodist in Chicago recognizes the unique needs of these retirees who have seen their own children in crisis.

Dorothy Jenkins: “Some of the causes: alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sometimes parents pass away, and HIV/AIDS.”

(Computer class)

Support comes in the form of computer training, help with home repairs, and much more.

The Rev. Al Sampson, Fernwood United Methodist Church: “I’m trying now to put together some psychiatrists, some psychologists, some school counselors, some guidance counselors.”

There are fun outings too, like a movie and pizza night.

Dorothy Jenkins, Fernwood United Methodist Church: “When the grandparent is happy, it makes a happier child.”

Fernwood wants to set an example for other faith groups.

The Rev. Al Sampson: “When a church says ‘We’re opening up the doors,’ it ought to be all the doors.”


Colleges in Ohio and Georgia are now using the Fernwood United Methodist program as part of their curriculum on how to serve senior citizens.

To learn more about the grandparents’ program at Chicago’s Fernwood United Methodist Church, contact the Rev. Al Sampson at 773-445-7125.

Posted: September 30, 2009