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The second time around: Program offers a new resource for people raising grandkids

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Michelle Maybank gathers her granddaugther Aeriana into her arms and settles down for story time, a joy for Maybank and a treat for Aeriana.

Aeriana, 3, lives with her grandparents in Pawleys Island. Her mother, Lavaisha Cumbee, is at home during the summers, but goes to Allen University during the school year.

So child care responsibilities fall on the Maybanks, Michelle and her husband, Jerome. But, it is also a family affair. Aunt Jessica and Uncle Jerome, both 16, also dote on Aeriana.

Uncle Jerome lets Aeriana climb all over him, his dad said.

Still, when young children enter a household where youngsters haven’t been for more than 10 years, families face adjustments.

“You have to reroute your life,” Maybank said.

That is why Georgetown County First Steps created the Parents a Second Time Around program (PASTA) this summer.

Using a $10,000 grant from the Brookdale Foundation, the two-year PASTA program utilizes curriculum from Cornell University which encourages, supports and aids surrogate parents as they adapt to the responsibilities of child care.

Brooke Domski, PASTA’s director, said grandparents serving as parents is a rapidly growing trend.

“The situation usually results from substance abuse, child abuse or abandonment, teen pregnancy, death, divorce, AIDS, joblessness and incarceration, as well as mental or physical incapacity of the parent,” Domski said.

PASTA officially started July 16. Going along with the PASTA theme, Domski started the program with an Italian-themed kick-off dinner in Georgetown County School District’s Beck Administration Building.

The building is also home to nonprofits such as First Steps and the YMCA.

Linda Russell, of Murrells Inlet, is preparing her home for her 14-month-old granddaughter. She came to the meeting to get information on how First Steps and the PASTA program could help.

Since Russell’s daughter gave birth and gave her custody, Russell said she’s found doctors, learned about her granddaughter’s medical conditions and is ready to care for her and show her all the love she has.

Grandparents traditionally spoil their grandchildren and send them home.

However, if grandparents become the primary caregiver, family dynamics can change.

Michelle Maybank works, but after two strokes, Jerome has to stay home and is unable to care for Aeriana all day.

“She gets a little fussy sometimes,” Jerome said. “It’s just like raising another kid. When she’s hurt and stubbed her toe or tired I rock her to sleep and kiss her little toe.”

Michelle wanted to keep Aeriana in day care last fall, but the cost was too much.

That’s when Michelle heard about First Steps. With the program’s help, she put Aeriana into the Pawleys Island Child Care Center, one of the First Steps’ Centers of Excellence.

Learning more about local programs available to help parents is one part of PASTA’s appeal. Domski said she and other First Steps staff are available to answer questions, connect people to the right Department of Social Services officials and help families find funds or child care if they need it.

While Michelle couldn’t make it to the PASTA program’s first meeting, she liked the idea of a group for second-time parents. Getting more information is also helpful, she said, since it’s been a while since she’s taken care of little children.

Although taking care of Aeriana adds a new responsibility to her life, Michelle wouldn’t have it any other way.

“She loves the whole family, but always tells Lavaisha, ‘I’m going to tell my grandma on you,’ or tells Michelle, ‘I’m going to tell my mom on you,’” Jerome said. “She’s very silly.”

Michelle agreed.

“She livens up the house,” she said, “But it’s busy, very busy.”

The next PASTA meeting is Aug. 12 at 10:30 a.m. in the Beck Administration Building in Georgetown.

The group will partner with Even Start parents who also take care of grandchildren or other children.

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