EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2006.
Most grandparents raising grandchildren are grandmothers. Occasionally, however, grandfathers are not only involved but they become the "one stable person" in the child’s life. Such is the case with Albert Garcia and his granddaughter Renee.
Garcia has had immense love for Renee since she was born. His concern grew when Renee’s parents were unable to care for her. Garcia (like so many grandparents) "stepped up to the plate." Working with Monroe County Department of Social Services and the courts, Garcia was given sole custody of Renee six years ago.
The process was a painful one for the family and was made more difficult when Garcia’s girlfriend died suddenly.
With his own health deteriorating and financial worries piling up, Garcia attended the Rochester Kinship Care Conference in 2001. He was not convinced that he wanted or needed help. He is a proud man who wanted to "do it alone." In time, he agreed to allow Catholic Family Center staff and the service partners of Kinship Care Resource Network to assist him in accessing services and resources that would assist him in caring for his granddaughter.
Garcia was able to access medical care, Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security benefits, legal assistance, financial assistance and a new green card from INS as a result of his work with CFC and Kinship Care Resource Network. He also received housing from Providence Housing Development Corp. as part of the Olean-Kennedy Revitalization Project. His health and financial situation improved dramatically.
Garcia and Renee are not without their challenges. Teenage years are difficult under the best of circumstances. Now 14, Renee has reached adolescence. Garcia stated that he worries less than he used to and that he "can’t do for her what two parents could do," going on to say, "I’m not young anymore."
But, make no mistake when asked about his granddaughter, Garcia knows and appreciates the young woman she is becoming. "She’s brilliant and amazing. And she gets good grades," he said with a twinkle in his eyes and a broad smile. "At parent-teacher conferences, they tell me she’s doing better than some kids with two parents."
Garcia stated sincerely that he is "filled with gratitude" regarding the difference CFC and the Kinship Care Resource Network has made in their lives.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Providence Housing Development Corp., an affiliate of diocesan Catholic Charities, is partnering with Kinship Care Resource Network to offer affordable housing at Plymouth Manor in Rochester to grandparents taking care of grandchildren or another family member’s child.