“I wanted to thank you for raising me into the wonderful person I am and putting your name onto something so huge, it means more than you will ever know.”
That’s just one line of a letter Alicia Beaumier wrote to her grandmother, Janice Allen, also of Mesa, last year. It is also a testament to what can happen with grandparents raising grandchildren.
Alicia was 10 when she and her brother Damien, then 8, went to live with their grandmother. Allen credits the help she got from Child Crisis Arizona for getting her family where it is today.
Allen is not alone in having her life dramatically changed by making the decision to step in and raise her grandchildren. In Arizona, the Children’s Action Alliance reports there are 67,000 children being raised by their grandparents. The majority—six out of 10—are being raised by their grandmothers alone.
In 2005, when Allen realized her daughter was in trouble with drugs, she took over the care of her grandchildren. She struggled on many levels. She had to sell her retirement home in Sunland Village, find a new place to live, figure out how she was going to support herself and two children, raise them—and make sure her daughter was getting the help she needed.
Beaumier attributes her mother’s eventual recovery—and her own success—to Allen: “If Grandma didn’t raise us, my mom probably wouldn’t be where she is today. That’s how she got her life together, knowing we were in a safe place and she could see us anytime that she wanted.”
Wide range of resources at Child Crisis
But the journey has been far from easy. Allen says it was a constant struggle at first: “In the beginning, I felt like I was drowning. I didn’t know where to turn or what to do. And I hurt for the kids too.”
Times had changed since she was a mother and she needed help. Finding that help came from a friend who referred her to Child Crisis Arizona, where she found a wide range of resources for grandparents in her same situation. From parenting classes and counseling to financial assistance referrals, healthcare and even food boxes, Allen found the help she needed.
On an emotional level, Allen thinks one of the hardest hurdles for a grandparent is the transition to becoming the parent. “I couldn’t be their grandma. I had to be their parent,” says Allen. “I felt hugely responsible, not only to them but to their parents, to the courts—and above all, to God.”
Allen says support groups helped because she was able to talk with other grandparents going through the same thing. The family also says it was great to take part in fun activities at the center.
“The Child Crisis center gave us lots of events to do together,” recalls Beaumier. “We got out on the weekends; there were picnics and Diamondback games. We had the fun side of it as well, instead of Grandma just constantly being mom, mom, mom!” Alicia says it also helped her brother and her to spend time with other children going through similar challenges.
Allen took care of her grandchildren for four and a half years before they were able to return to live with their mother. Allen is proud to say that her daughter has recovered. Her grandson is still living with his mother and Beaumier, a student at ASU, is studying early childhood education, works and lives on her own. Allen works part time at Child Crisis Arizona as a receptionist. She also speaks to grandparents just starting out on the road she traveled years ago.
Allen says she never regrets taking on the role of parent: “You know, you can lose a house or a savings account, but you can always rebuild that. I felt it was more important to take care of the grandchildren.”
Child Crisis Arizona resources
Child Crisis Arizona
817 N Country Club Dr, Mesa
480-834-9424 • childcrisisaz.org
2334 E Polk St Phoenix, AZ 85006
602-273-7363 • childcrisisaz.org
Mesa Emergency Children’s Shelter
Whiteman’s Safe Haven for Children
604 W 9th St, Mesa • 480-969-2308
Phoenix Emergency Children’s Shelter
2711 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix • 602-273-7364