For Kathy, who is raising four grandchildren ranging from 1 to 14-years-old all of whom are past victims of trauma, LifeWorks NW Family Support and Connections has been a huge support.
“It is so hard being a grandparent parenting grandchildren, because it’s kind of like you sit in silence.”
According to Kathy, grandparents don’t get as much help and resources from most organizations as foster parents, although many grandparents serve in that role. After raising her own children and helping raise many now grown grandchildren, she is struggling to find rent and other necessities for the first time.
“The rental assistance program requires you to have a late or an eviction notice and funds are limited,” she said. “This on top of all other financial and emotional demands make it really hard.”
The family had to turn to TANF, and Kathy’s state caseworker recommended that she also engage with LifeWorks NW’s Family Support and Connections. It is a voluntary, short-term program for families who are under the stress of economic insecurity. Kathy has been working with Neomie, one of LifeWorks NW’s family advocates, for several months.
“Boy, she is a strong advocate for her kids,” says Neomie. “Part of the reason she was open to sharing her story was that maybe there will be another grandparent out there who will hear her story and know that there’s hope and there is help for them, too. And that they are not alone.”
“The advocate helped us get through this time when everything is really hard with the pandemic, schooling from home and making ends meet, which has been really challenging,” Kathy said. “Some of the pressure is off. When parents are under pressure kids feel that.”
Clothing was a big issue for this growing family. Kathy shared that nothing was fitting and kids grow.
“I wasn’t able to go to the clothing closets and my advocate brought me clothing bags for each of the kids,” she said. “90 days of working with my family advocate was helpful with clothing, food, finding funding for paying bills, help with DMV fees when my wallet was stolen, a donated laptop computer [from Lifeworks NW] for managing tasks, finding a used phone to replace mine. She drove to deliver clothing and a birthday gift for my granddaughter.”
Neomie’s eyes light up when she talks about finding a great, inexpensive birthday gift for the 7-year-old. The family advocates work with very limited funds, $325 each across their up to 25 families per month. She was thrilled when she saw cake mix on sale for a dollar. She bought it for Kathy, who likes to make “I Love You” cakes with the kids.
Neomie shared that a big part of her role is connecting clients to other resources, like Northwest Children’s Outreach. She helps clients connect to housing, food, clothing, but she is also able to bring Kathy a variety of necessities. But possibly the greatest gift Neomie offers is her understanding and willingness to listen, that helps take the pressure off struggling parents, ultimately helping provide the children with a safer and happier home.
“I love my team,” says Neomie. “All day we are trying to problem solve with parents and give support. Just to try and ease their way, because it is so hard to parent in general, and then you add a pandemic, and civil unrest, and overwhelmed resources in the community. Just having a listening ear is the most important thing that our program can offer.”