About 35,000 grandparents in Washington – including nearly 2,200 in Seattle – are raising their grandchildren. Many of them are single women living in poverty.
According to the national Center on grandparents Raising Grandchildren at Georgia State University, grandparents are raising 6 percent of the nation’s children. “Between 1990 and 2000, the number of U.S. children in grandparent-headed households increased by 30 percent.” the center reported.
Ozella Bradley became the primary caregiver of her grandson in 1996 and of her granddaughter in 2000. Through determination and hard work – including 3 ½ years at First place, a school, shelter, and a social-service center for families struggling with homelessness – she and the children are now in permanent housing.
Ozella Bradley, 52: I’m raising my two grandchildren… When my granddaughter was born, my daughter had drugs in her system… My daughter is not responsible enough to care for the kids; that’s why they’re with me.
I waited ‘til I was 50 years old before I ever became homeless. I didn’t really know what homeless was. Like I explained to my grandkids, we were homeless, yes, but we weren’t on the street. My No. 1 goal was for us to be together, and what we went through together, that just made our love stronger.
No one’s gonna love my grandkids like I love my grandkids.
Like I tell my grandkids: You never look at a person and frown sleeping at the busstop or somebody downtown sleeping on the ground because we were almost there. We were just blessed that Grandma had enough get-up-and-go or spark, still have my capabilities and sense, to speak up for us to be in a place instead of being homeless.
I received two unsung hero awards in 2004 and 2005 from First place… I called my mom, because I wanted to know what ‘unsung’ meant. I looked it up in the dictionary, also, but she said it’s for people that aren’t recognized for things that they do in the community, etc…. I love First Place. When I had no one to actually help me, First Place was there for me…
They’re my grandkids, but they’re my kids. I raise them pretty much the same way that I raised my kids…. If there’s anything they should remember about Grandma, it’s that Grandma cooks healthy meals. We don’t eat sandwiches.