“I remember the day my beautiful grandson Jonah was born,” shared Alice (not their real names). “While his birth brought me great joy, it also brought me great sadness, knowing my daughter wouldn’t be able to properly care for him due to her mental health struggles.”
When it was time for Jonah to come home from the hospital, it was Alice who became his primary caregiver. “It was a challenging situation with my daughter, because she’d get mad at me about something and then she’d come and take Jonah away,” explained Alice. “Sometimes for days at a time. I’d be worried sick about his well-being.”
Alice knew that while her daughter loved her son, she wasn’t able to care for him adequately. Alice wanted what was best for both her grandson and his mother. She believed that her gaining guardianship of Jonah was the appropriate plan. Guardianship would allow Allice to have custody of Jonah and the authority to make decisions concerning his education, medical needs, and care, while not terminating the legal rights of her daughter. This plan also let Jonah’s mother remain in his life. The issue was Alice didn’t know where to turn for help.
All children deserve to grow up in safe, stable and secure families who support their long-term well-being. Unfortunately, too many children are unnecessarily separated from parents or other family members who could provide that safe and loving care if given access to needed resources, mental health services, substance abuse treatment or improved parenting skills.
Preventative child welfare services keep children safe, strengthen families and avoid the traumatic experience of children entering foster care whenever it is safe to do so. Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois offers a variety of preventative services, including Extended Family Support, Intact Family Recovery and Intact Family Services.
“Too many children and families are facing enormous struggles and challenges in today’s world,” said LCFS President and CEO Mike Bertrand. “But I’ve seen that with a support system, these same people can overcome the obstacles put in front of them and turn their lives around. Now more than ever, it’s so important to provide a hand up to those in need.”
Thankfully, Alice eventually heard about LCFS’ Extended Family Support program and the assistance we provide to families looking to gain formal guardianship of a relative in their care.
The court system and legal paperwork for guardianship can be confusing and overwhelming, but LCFS guided Alice through the entire process. “Clarence was assigned to work with me,” said Alice. “He stuck by my side through everything!”
Alice’s LCFS worker also did a lot of extra things, like arranging for Meals On Wheels for Jonah and Alice during the pandemic. He even personally delivered a care package filled with toiletries and clothing for both of them.
After Alice received guardianship of Jonah, she was so thankful that he was home with her. “A weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
Jonah is now seven years old and in second grade. He’s got some challenges, but receives special classes for extra support. Overall, he’s a happy and energetic little boy.
“Most importantly, he’s with me, safe and loved – and LCFS fixed that for me,” said Alice. “They were a light for me on my journey with Jonah. They stood by us and we’re so grateful.”