PART 1 of 3
John and Maureen Evans are starting over.
They are two of thousands of grandparents who have already raised their children but now find themselves raising their grandchildren.
For the Evanses, that means raising 2-year-old Anthony.
Married 18 years, with adult children from previous relationships, the couple took it a step further and adopted Anthony late last year and are now parents again.
Child Protective Services asked Maureen, 57, and John, 60, to take Anthony in when he was an infant after his mom left him and two half-siblings with her step-grandmother who couldn’t care for them. Anthony’s father had died.
When Anthony came in, “it was a little rough. We weren’t set up for a baby. We were struggling financially,” said Maureen, who indicated agencies helped them pull it all together.
John, a quiet man, said Anthony “is a joy,” and being a parent again is different.
As far as changing their lives, “My life constantly changes anyway,” said Maureen, who, as a teen, cared for her ill mom and recently for her 88-year-old father.
Still, there were challenges.
Anthony had issues with stress and “vomited all the time, due to abandonment,” she said. “He had the hoarding issues because of not being fed properly so he always gobbled up his food, then shortly after he ate, he threw up. It was kind of tough getting that regulated.”
The Surprise couple isn’t without their own problems. John isn’t working; Maureen has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and is on disability. Both are uninsured and don’t qualify for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.
Being on disability and not working at the time Anthony joined the family actually helped Maureen juggle all the demands placed on her. “I stretched myself out to take care of everything,” including her dad’s and Anthony’s doctor appointments, visitation with his mom, and court, located in Prescott.
What was difficult for Maureen was Anthony’s age.
Maureen went to the library at Benevilla in Surprise and read a book on positive discipline with strong-willed children. She wasn’t sure which discipline approach to take. “What do you do? Scream, yell, what? The way they raise their kids is different. We didn’t have this information, so you do have to educate yourself all the time.”
Aleena Erickson, manager at Benevilla’s Family Resource Center and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, said: “When you’re talking about a grandparent raising a grandchild, you’re talking about a whole different world. The issues they face are just so much more numerous.”
The grandparents may be retired and may not have the resources; other may live in age-restricted communities.
In the West Valley, 13.4 percent of children 5 and younger are being raised by their grandparents, a rate slightly greater than Maricopa County as a whole, which is 12.5 percent, according to Angela Mussi, Parent Awareness & Community Outreach coordinator with the state program, First Things First.
Adopting a grandchild is something Maureen Evans never expected to do and now as a mom she looks different from the other moms on the playground; mainly her age and topics of conversation, but she said it’s much easier than being a guardian.
In a guardianship, she said, you have to worry about people interrupting your family and there are limitations on what you can do for the child and everybody is involved.
With adoption, “It’s so much easier, they’re your own, they’re yours. There’s no interference anymore, there’s no chaos in the child’s life,” Maureen said. “There’s a stability and when you have that stability within yourself, knowing that you’re the provider, you’re the child’s parent, then, you feel more secure within yourself and that helps in your bonding.
“Once you adopt, that’s your baby; that’s your child. To me, it’s forever,” she said.
Friday: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program at Benevilla.