At 42 years old, Betty Cornelius had to fight for custody of her newborn granddaughter after figuring out that her son and his girlfriend were addicted to drugs. Betty is not alone. In fact, more than 75,000 Canadian children are currently being raised by relatives because their birth parents are unable, unwilling or have been deemed unfit to do so.
These kinship families, many who are grandparents like Betty, face a multitude of physical, financial and emotional challenges. After going through these hardships herself, Betty decided she had to do something to help.
Betty created CANGRANDS national kinship support, a not-for-profit organization that assists kinship families across Canada through online forums, support groups, legal advice and other vital resources. There are 40,000 kinship families in Canada and they experience different challenges than common families: battling to get the custody for these kids, raising children with behavioral problems due to the mental health, drug or alcohol addictions of their birth parents or living on a very tight budget since they did not plan to initially raise these kids. Betty helps these children by supporting their grandparents and other kinship caregivers, sometimes they just need someone to hear them, somebody to support them. "It's a lot of hand holding and a lot of head nodding." In addition to online resources and support, CANGRANDS has held week-long camps where more than 100 kinship families gather together, learn from each other's experiences and hear experts in the field talk about ways to navigate their journey. That camp is an incredible resource and helps kinship families to re-energize.