Photo by Jeylin White
Thomas Howllington and his wife Tonya, of Riverdale, are raising 11 grandchildren. The have been affiliated with Kinship Care for four years.
SOUTHERN CRESCENT — Thomas Howllington and his wife, Tonya, are raising 11 grandchildren in Riverdale. Corine Platt is raising five grandchildren and taking care of her sick daughter in McDonough.
“We have our own bus,” Howllington said jovially. “It can be a challenge some days. Not only financially, but mentally.” That’s why the Howllingtons sought support from the Kinship Care Resource Center in Jonesboro, a resource available to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and to other relatives who are caregivers in parent-absent homes. Likewise, Platt found similar services available in Henry County, through Bless God’s Children, a nonprofit organziation.
These organizations help households like the Howllingtons and the Platts, which are sometimes referred to as grandfamilies — families headed by grandparents and other relatives, who share their homes with their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and/or other related children. According to some national estimates, more than 6 million children across the country live in households maintained by grandparents or other relatives.
Those numbers were supported by the 2000 Census, which is why the Kinship Care program was developed, according to Angela Burda, its resource coordinator.
She said the program is under the Clayton County Senior Services Department and offers monthly group support meetings, educational seminars, and various family activities.
“There is just a wide array of support programs for our grandparents,” she said, “There’s just a lot of things.”
The Howllingtons have been raising five grandsons and six granddaughters — ranging in age from 9 to 18 — since the youngest were toddlers.
“That’s home,” Thomas Howllington said while laughing. “A busy home. Eight teenagers and three little ones.”
They have been associated with the program for four years and it has helped to alleviate many burdens.
“This program has helped me tremendously,” he said. “It has helped me financially, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I really enjoy the support classes they offer.”
Eyeda Jones, founder of Bless God’s Children, said her program provides assistance for the entire Metro Atlanta area.
“Bless God’s Children not only supports single-family house holds but grandparents as well,” Jones said.
Jones, in collaboration with Fathers for the Fatherless, a local male-support group in Lovejoy, hosted a grand back-to-school supply drive, on Saturday to support families in the Southern Crescent community. Several business and local dignitaries donated supplies to help fill scores of plastic book bags.
“It’s very important for us to give back,” said Lovejoy Mayor Bobby Cartwright, who gave the greatest donation, according to Jones.
“For the parents who need help we have help for them,” said Cartwright. “It’s important for us to think about the children who don’t have.”
Platt attended Saturday’s event, which she discovered while taking her grandchildren to the local library for a tutoring session.
“I saw the flyer posted in the library and decided to check it out,” she said. “I wanted to learn more about what [Bless God’s Children] had to offer.”
Unemployed for the last six years, Platt is relying on government assistance, child support, and her husband’s income, to pay the bills. But, she said, it’s still hard making ends meet.
“Times are tough and I need all the help I can get,” said Platt. “There are a lot of grandparents having to step up and take care of their grandchildren nowadays, and we need all the help and support we can get.”
“I’m so grateful for Jones and what she is doing,” she added.
Howllington shared the same sentiment as Platt.
“I love my grandchildren,” said Howllington. “[Kinship Care] has been a blessing. Everytime there’s a meeting I’m always there. They’re always there for you.”