SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - San Diego County is offering help to families where a grandparent is a sole provider for his/her grandchildren, as that population expands.
Through the Department of Health and Human Services, the County offers support groups, events, resources and more to help people in their golden years who are suddenly thrust back into the role of parent.
According to the county's website, there are more than 24,000 grandparents in San Diego County who are raising a young child.
"That's a pretty large number," says Program Manager Tina Emmerick. "But what's really striking for us is we know that's not capturing the whole population."
Emmerick says the reasons grandparents wind up providing for their grandchildren vary. In many cases, it's because the parents tested positive for drugs, are incarcerated, have mental health problems or passed away.
For the grandparents left to raise the kids, it can be overwhelming.
"It's difficult," says Martha Lopez. She's been raising her grandson, Jacob since he was born. His mother, Martha's daughter Crystal, tested positive for Methamphetamine during birth and CPS was going to take Jacob away.
"I didn't want Jake to go anywhere else," says Lopez. "I wanted to make sure that he was well taken care of.
"I love him, and he deserves the best, and I'm here for him," she says.
Lopez says the last six years have been wonderful, raising Jacob as her own. She had to take early retirement from her job at UC San Diego to become a full-time mom again.
Jacob has limited contact with his biological mother, who Lopez says still has issues with drugs.
Lopez is part of a support group run through the County. It's one of several programs they offer to grandparents raising grandchildren.
The county started offering help to this group in 2012. The resources and support have expanded over the years. They now offer four symposiums throughout the year so grandparents can find all the help they need in one place.
"We can direct them to food banks, legal aid, support groups," says Emmerick. "They're realizing they're not alone in this. There are other families like them. And that broader community can wrap around these families and provide that extra support."
The Live Well San Diego initiative and 2-1-1 help the county with the program.