Grandfamilies in Texoma

By: Amanda Brown Email
By: Amanda Brown Email

ARDMORE, OK -- One out of 10 children is now being raised by their grandparents, and Oklahoma ranks one of the top states in the nation for grand families.

Pam Kerkstra has two grown kids of her own, but four years ago, her life changed when she had to take in her two grandsons.

"When you start to get older and you think you're headed into more leisure time and you have that game plan for your future and all of a sudden you're thinking, 'wow, I have to be thinking about raising a second set of children'," said Pam.

Austin & Brendan Yanev are Pam's grandsons, who moved in after they're mom couldn't care for them anymore and their dad moved out of the country.

"He actually married someone in Ukraine that he met and he left us with our mom with health problems. So when that case came up, they decided to bring us to our grandparents. It's really common here in Oklahoma to live with your grandparents," said Austin.

According to 2010 Census data there are over 100,000 children in Oklahoma being raised by their grandparents or other family members and for various reasons.

"Substance abuse, incarceration, the employment situation; the way it is young mothers and fathers who might not be ready to take on that responsibility," said Pam.

"Somehow, the system broke down; parenting was not absorbed I think by certain generations," said Cavnar.

Judy Cavnar is the advocate for grandparents raising grandkids and says beside the emotional aspect, there are additional stresses for these families to worry about.

"This is a very difficult problem because grandparents didn't financially plan to raise their grandchildren," said Cavnar.

Cavnar has spoken to several local politicians and is pushing for changes to be made in the near future, including, "Re-writ[ing] a lot of the laws. This seems to be the generation or a time when there has never been in history so many grandparents raising their grandchildren. So there were not laws on the books to help these grandparents out financially or legally."

After Pam found out she was far from alone, she wanted to connect with others. She helped organize a monthly grand families meeting in Ardmore and works at Systems of Care, an organization that has a program specifically designed to help grand families cope.

"A lot of the people have the thoughts and feelings that I did, and concerns and things that I may not of wanted to voice," said Pam.

Pam says that there are several grandparents who don't seek help because they are afraid they would be seen as unfit guardians, but says that's never the case.

"We can do it together and be a support to one another."

The grand-families support meeting is held the second Wednesday of each month in Ardmore at the First United Methodist church at the Colvert Ministry Center on 503 W. Broadway.

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  • by Biffco Location: Sherman on Apr 30, 2012 at 04:01 PM
    And then there's me - Liberal to the bone with three kids. Raised one to adulthood already and currently raising two more. I guess you don't really need so called "family values" or God to raise a good family! Who woulda thunk it?
  • by Anonymous on Apr 29, 2012 at 12:19 AM
    there [are no] laws on the books to help these grandparents out financially or legally." Too bad! It's not the state's (taxpayer's) problem!
  • by Mud on Apr 28, 2012 at 03:46 PM
    Sad that some people can't pull their head out and be there for there children
  • by Parent on Apr 28, 2012 at 07:35 AM
    I wonder why this is? Could it be because, as a more and more liberal society, we refuse to hold anyone accountable for their actions anymore? The liberals push the "nothing is my fault (Obama/Holder) and I am not responsible" mentality and here are the results! What happens when this generation dies off? These same kids will be out in the streets, that's what. Hey parents, instead of suing the school when your kid acts up and gets into trouble, how about busting that backend and teaching them right from wrong? Do this and you may not end up having to raise your grandkids!
    • reply
      by Biffco on Apr 30, 2012 at 03:41 PM in reply to Parent
      But isn't Oklahoma a "red" state? And a "Christian" state, as well? You can't get any further from "liberal" than Oklahoma, I thought. And, if the kids are older than three, most of these families came into being during the Bush administration. You Obama haters will use ANY excuse, won't you? You're shameless!
  • by CLAUDIA Location: Madill,Ok. on Apr 27, 2012 at 08:00 PM
    I have raised 2of my grand kids one 13 years and the other 8 years.except when my daughter would ether kid nap them,or fill kidnapping charges on me,and i would have to take them to her.i get $100.00a week on them.I was getting help with clothes and school supplies but even that stopped.the state is no help.
    • reply
      by Claudio on Apr 30, 2012 at 11:55 AM in reply to CLAUDIA
      Nice family you've raised there. Bodes well for their future...
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