Hundreds of Northern Michigan Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, Group Offers Support

Hundreds of grandparents in Northern Michigan are stepping up and filling an important role for their grandchildren.

They’re adoptive parents raising their grandchildren like their own children.

With nearly 90 grandparents in Benzie County and more than 500 in Grand Traverse County raising their grandchildren as their own children, this is an important support group.

“We want him to be independent. Because we know we’re not going to be his parents when he’s probably 25,” said Jan Wagner of the Kinship Care Resource Center.

Wagner and her husband adopted their grandchild three years ago.

Their daughter abandoned Holden with them when he was two.

Now, he’s 10.

A situation that can bring financial struggle.

“We can adopt children, but oftentimes after we’re done with our cases and DHHS and other agencies, whatever it might be, that support is gone,” said Deb Frisbie of the Adoptive Family Support Network.

The Adoptive Family Support Network has a group for parents in this situation.

It used to be called ‘Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,’ but now it’s more inclusive and supports all relative parents.

“At that time when I was raising my granddaughter when she was little, you know I was going through grief of my own because I had to lose my daughter basically to have my granddaughter,” said April Nowland, who has adopted her 14-year-old granddaughter.

Many parents in the group have adult children who fell to drug or alcohol abuse or suffer from mental illness.

And they feel a special responsibility towards their kin.

“It’s not that you’re just taking care of a child, you’re taking care of your blood,” Wagner said.

For grandparents and other relative parents like Jan, raising their children’s kids as their own is worth it.

“For him and to succeed, this is exactly what he needs. You and Ed 24/7 meeting his needs, attending to his needs. And what better thing to do with the rest of our time?”

The group meets once a month, and works on advocacy methods, but is most importantly a resource for parents to be there for each other.