When Cynthia Bryant, 54, thought her two grandsons were living in an unhealthy environment, she went to the home of her younger daughter and rescued them.
Bryant, a producer for the Urban County Government's GTV3, lived in a two-bedroom home. She had used one of the bedrooms as an office for her home-based business.
That all changed when she got the boys, now ages 12 and 9. She bought bedroom furniture for them, and she secured day care for them.
"It drove me deeply into debt," Bryant said. "I'm still crawling out from under that rock.
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"Day care alone was $800 a month," she said. "That was more than my mortgage."
Because she had informally become the boys' guardian, she didn't qualify for as much financial support as was needed.
Eventually, Bryant's daughter reclaimed her children, but the state later called Bryant and asked her if she would care for the boys again.
With the state initiating the guardianship, the Kinship Care Program provided much-needed financial support the second time around.
Information like that is one of the resources that will be available for grandparents and other relatives at the Seventh Annual Bluegrass Regional Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Conference on March 19.
The keynote speaker is Joseph Crumbley, a family therapist from Philadelphia who co-wrote Relatives Raising Children: An Overview of Kinship Care.
Twenty-four attorneys also will be on hand to give 30-minute free consultations for relatives seeking clarification of their legal status with the children. Slots are limited so participants must call to be placed on that schedule.
Bryant's grandsons are not alone. In Kentucky, more than 57,000 children live in households headed by grandparents, and more than 12,000 are living with other relatives, according to the AARP Foundation and other social programs. That is about 7 percent of Kentucky's children.
Of those combined numbers, more than 30,000 children have no parent present in the home where they live.
The 2006 U.S. Census Community Survey found some 205 million grandparents nationwide are rearing their grandchildren. The reasons for it include drug use by parents, imprisonment, illness or death of the parent.
Bryant declined to say what led to her having guardianship of her grandsons, stating only that her daughter is "experiencing some challenges."
Regardless, taking in a child can be a shock to a household's income and to an adult's emotional state.
"I had settled into a mode of living as a single woman with a career and home-based business," Bryant said. "It was not easy (taking responsibility for her grandsons). I was an angry black woman for a while."
Anger is OK, she said. But it has to be released. It cannot be given a permanent home in your heart.
Bryant relies heavily on her faith to get her through, she said.
Betsy Jerner could give a heart-felt second to that motion. At 59, Jerner and her husband, Bill, 65, are giving shelter to their 20-month-old grandson and his parents, including their elder daughter.
The young family moved in with the Jerners after the baby was born, but then the young couple moved out for several months. In August, the couple returned. The baby has been with the Jer ners the whole time, however.
"I prayed about it," Betsy Jerner said. "I can't make this decision alone, I said. Either find a place for them or have them knock on my door."
Three years ago, the Jerners decided it was time to make career changes. Betsy Jerner left a management position at New York Life Insurance Company, where she had worked for 29 years, and opened her own insurance practice. Her husband retired to manage the affairs of the house.
"I think God was putting us in position for this," Jerner said.
When she learned that her daughter was pregnant, she and her husband agreed the baby would come first. Like Bryant, Jerner didn't reveal the circumstances that led them to care for their grandson.
"Some of it you can prevent and some of it you can't," she said. "But the greatest thing about this grandparent conference is that I have gotten to know some good people who are in this situation.
"Anytime you are in a difficult situation with health or work or family, you get isolated and you think you are the only one," Jerner said. "But there are other people, and it helps so much to talk with them. You deal with what you can deal with, and the rest of it, don't blame yourself over it."
Jerner and her husband attended last year's conference and she signed up to help this year.
Why? Because she found that the key to surviving the twists and turns of life is to reach out to people. And because rearing a young child late in life is not easy.
"It was very difficult," Jerner said. "You can hide in the closet from shame or you can get out and work for survival," she said. "I am a survivalist."
Bill Jerner is the one who got up for the middle-of-the-night feedings and he is the one who cares for the baby during the day.
"My husband is a rock. He loves that baby," Betsy Jerner said.
Bryant and the Jerners chose family over their dreams and plans. Not everyone does, however.
"I do have some friends who have said, 'No. This is my time,'" Bryant said. "At first, you raise an eyebrow and say it is not about you. But when you see what is required, you can't fault them."
Still, knowing what she knows, Bryant wouldn't hesitate to do it again.
"They have truly been a blessing for me," she said. "I am a workaholic, and having them at home made me realize I can't burn the candle at both ends and still take care of them at home."