Georgia Salazar envisioned living out her golden years watching daytime television and visiting her grandchildren.
Instead, she is watching cartoons as she raises her five grandchildren on her own.
And she‚??s not alone.
It‚??s estimated, according to Howard J. Grossman of the NEPA Intergenerational Coalition, millions of children are being raised by their grandparents nationwide. In Pennsylvania, more than 165,000 children are being raised in households headed by grandparents.
These families face everyday challenges, struggles and opportunities.
The reasons are many why these situations occur.
In Salazar‚??s case, her daughter, Janis, was not suitable to be a parent and neglected her children. When Janis died in 2011, there was no option left but for Salazar to gain legal guardianship.
Salazar said it has been a difficult transition raising the children, ages 10-18, but it‚??s one she feels obligated to undertake.
‚??They‚??re my grandchildren. I don‚??t understand how grandparents can let their grandchildren go into the system,‚?Ě said Salazar, 58. ‚??These kids didn‚??t ask for the problems that have been put upon them. Why should you hold the kids accountable when it was their parents who were not accountable?‚?Ě
Salazar and others can find out what social service assistance is available during the sixth annual conference for grandparents to be held Friday at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center in Wilkes-Barre from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is a free conference for grandparents with breakfast and lunch provided.
‚??The annual conference attracts at least 150-plus people each year and extends many opportunities to highlight new and innovative ways that grandparents and relative caregivers can meet the needs of the youngsters that they support,‚?Ě said Grossman. ‚??We encourage participation in the coalition and enhance the ability of caregivers to respond to the needs of the youngsters.‚?Ě
Workshops include: HELPLINE; knowing where to turn; post-permanency issues; regulations and stress reduction; making the transition from grandparent to parent; drug-and-alcohol issues; emotional intelligence; conflict resolution; and a presentation by grandparents.
Salazar admits that raising kids at her age is a lot harder than when she raised her own three children more than two decades ago.
‚??I‚??m not capable of doing the things I did before,‚?Ě she noted.
But she does what she can with as much love and support as she can muster.
As much as the staying up late, helping with homework, dealing with emotional and special needs ‚?? two of the children have autism ‚?? and other parenting requirements have taken a toll on her, Salazar said she couldn‚??t imagine any other option.
‚??There‚??s nothing more important than keeping your family together,‚?Ě she said. ‚??It would kill me if my grandchildren had to go to foster care.‚?Ě
‚?Ę To register for Friday‚??s grandparents raising grandchildren conference, contact Sue Harding at the Area Agency for Aging for Luzerne and Wyoming Counties at 822-1158, ext. 2383.
‚?Ę It is being held at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center in Wilkes-Barre from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.