Focusing on grandparent-headed households, Gary Garrison examines his own experience as a caregiver to his step-grandchildren, and the experiences of others in similar situations, to paint an illuminating picture of grandparents who have put their lives on hold to raise their children's children.
Grandparents have particular challenges in this situation, as they often have to battle their own children for custody, deal with pressures from caseworkers, negotiate their own health and financial issues, and address the guilt and resentment they may feel towards the missing son or daughter who conceived the children now in their care. As well, many fear their grandchildren will be taken away, which keeps them silent and isolated. This fear can be particularly profound for Indigenous grandparents, who bear intergenerational wounds of racism and colonialism as they struggle to create a better future for themselves and their grandchildren.
No matter their background, grandparents looking for guidance and wisdom will find meaning in this brave and clear-eyed book.
Garrison, a former journalist in Edmonton, Alberta, profiles Canadian grandparents raising their grandchildren alone, illustrating the vital importance and difficulties of this work. Exploring cases in which biological parents are either unable or unwilling to raise their children, Garrison finds the grandparents he interviews postponing retirement and stretching budgets to provide much-needed care. He identifies this as a growing phenomenon in Canadian society, unrelieved by an unsupportive child welfare system. One particularly wrenching problem that several interviewees report is grandchildren who suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Another issue identified by Garrison involves the lingering effects of racist policies that undermined indigenous Canadian families by systematically removing children from their parents and indoctrinating them in residential schools. Despite this bleak picture, Garrison finds glimmers of hope. There are people such as Betty and Karen who have been damaged by their upbringings yet have matured into generous adults committed to advocacy work. Garrison's experience of raising his own step-grandchildren helps him to personally connect with the people he interviews. As a result, this book communicates the urgency of a lesser-known issue in child welfare.