Becoming the primary caretakers of five children wasn’t something Topekans Artremio and Manuela Retana took lightly in February 2014. But when it’s your grandchildren who are in need, you don’t think twice, the Retanas said at a recent celebration ahead National Grandparents Day. People all across Kansas will honor the contributions of grandparents on National Grandparents Day, which is Sept. 13.
When the Retanas’ son and daughter-in-law were facing some challenges, they needed assistance caring for their nine children. Rather than split up the children and place them with non-relatives, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) sought help from family members.
The paternal grandparents of the children stepped up, accepting the responsibility for five children until they could be officially reintegrated into their mother’s home in August of this year.
“Family comes first,” Manuela Retana said at a ceremony at the office of Governor Sam Brownback to commemorate Grandparents Day. “When that’s the only support children have, grandparents are going to be ready to help.”
The Governor and DCF are using the occasion of National Grandparents Day to recognize the tremendous service many Kansas grandparents provide by caring for their grandchildren.
When parental rights are terminated or surrendered, grandparents may also become parents to their grandchildren. In Kansas, 3 percent of all children under 18 are living in households where a grandparent provides that child’s primary care.
About 32 percent of children in out-of-home placement live in households headed by a grandparent or other relative.
“It is always our goal to keep children in their homes when it is safe to do so,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. “When that is not possible, grandparents often provide a safe and loving alternative to reduce the trauma of children being removed from their home.”
One of the older children cared for by the Retanas said moving in with his grandparents helped ease the difficulty of the period during which he could not live with his mother.
“We know them and felt comfortable living with them,” the grandson said. “They understand us, and they know what we like and what we need.”
A social worker with KVC emphasized that in many cases, living with a grandparent helps children stay connected to their parents and siblings, and minimizes the trauma they experience when removed from their homes.
“They typically don’t have nearly as many transitional problems when they reintegrate with their parents,” KVC Intensive In-Home Specialist Jessica Fields said. “As in the example of the Retanas, the grandparents and parents are on the same page and have open communication, and they all want to provide strong support for the children.”
The Kansas Department for Aging and Disabilities (KDADS) provides support to grandparents serving as parents through its Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP). The program was created by several agencies concerned with the welfare of older adults, children and youth.
RAPP offers support groups and referrals to community resources such as legal services, financial assistance, medical assistance, day care, emergency food, housing assistance and recreational activities for children.
For more information about RAPP, contact Sharon Dabzadeh at KDADS, by calling 785-296-4986 or 800-432-3535.
Governor Brownback signs a proclamation designating Grandparents Day while social services workers and members of the Retana family observe.
(Adults from left to right: KVC Intensive In-Home Specialist Jessica Fields, Governor Brownback (seated), DCF Deputy Director of Permanency/Training Sharri Black, Tamara Garcia, KVC Director of Intensive In-Home Services Marcy Scott, Manuela Retana, Artremio Retana)