Thousands of Grandparents are Raising Their Grandchildren in Tampa Bay Counties

Erin Murray | Spectrum Bay News 9

May 02, 2024

The role of parent does not always fall to a child’s mother or father. In Tampa Bay counties, there are thousands of grandparents taking on that role.

What You Need To Know

  • Joan Broughton is raising six of her grandchildren permanently.
  • The Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County (JWB) is hosting a series of family-friendly events across Pinellas County to celebrate and support grandparents raising their grandchildren.
  • According to the ACS, in Pinellas County just over 6,000 grandparents are the sole providers for their grandchild or grandchildren.
  • Mid-County Grand Families Event is happening Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center. It is located at 4951 78th Ave. N., Pinellas Park.

Joan Broughton knows the job of being a parent well. She has three children.

In her St. Petersburg home, a 16-year-old boy sits at her dining room table.

“This is Daevon,” said Broughton. “Only no one calls him Daevon. What does everybody call you, baby?”

He smiles and says, “Jack.”

Despite Jack calling Broughton momma, he is not her son. He is her grandson.

He is diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

“It is harder for you with your hands,” said Broughton, ripping the plastic around an eight pack of juice boxes. “Momma got it, and I will open up your juice because you can’t do it.”

Tuesday and Thursday are good days in her home, because her church family brings over food, like the pizza they were eating when we visited.

“Right now, since I do not have to cook, wash dishes and whatever, I can actually do homework and spend time with them,” said Broughton.

She said the word them because Jack is not the only one coming home from school, hungry for dinner.

“How was school?” said Broughton, as three more kids, elementary aged, walk up her front steps and into the house.

There is Diezel, Dominic, and Arianna. They all make themselves a plate and happily talk about their day at school.

Minutes later, Da’Mya comes in and begins helping with homework. She is the oldest of Broughton’s grandchildren.

Finally, the door swings open one more time, and in walks Annie, smiling. She is in middle school.

In total, Broughton has six of her grandchildren permanently living under her roof.

“So you got first grade, third grade, fifth grade, ninth grade, senior and eighth,” said Broughton, pointing to each one as they eat or do homework.

In a few months, Broughton will take in a seventh grandchild, and within a year, most likely, an eighth grandchild.

“When school starts, I will have seven. I will have seven,” she repeats, closing her eyes. “I will have seven. I don’t know how, but…”

Broughton’s children had kids young, work unusual schedules, and are working to support themselves right now. That is why, from the birth of her first grandchild, Broughton and her husband Tyrone chose to take on the roles of caregivers.

“Thirty-nine years,” said Broughton, when asked how long she and Tyrone had been married. “And we dated for three.”

But then tears fill her eyes, and she begins to weep. The high school sweethearts will not make 40, because this past year Tyrone died of a heart attack.

“I still don’t believe he is gone. I still don’t know why God took it from me,” said Broughton.

The hardest job in the world, that of being a parent, has now been made harder because she must be both the father and mother.

In April, she decided to seek out help by attending a Grandfamilies event hosted by the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County.

“Sometimes they’re taking care of the children informally,” said Yaridis Garcia, Community Engagement Manager, Juvenile Welfare Board. “They’re not the formal provider. So we want to make sure that we have legal organizations that they can ask questions.”

Garcia says in Pinellas County, there are almost 6,000 grandparents who are the sole providers for their grandchildren. Twenty-two percent of those families live below the poverty line.

The reason as to why grandparents are having to parent their grandchildren varies from family to family.

“Unfortunately, we have mental health issues in our communities, substance abuse, domestic violence, family separation for a lot of reasons that are affecting our families,” said Garcia.

Despite those hardships, there are many resources available within the county.

Overall, many of the grandparents watching their grandkids do it willingly, knowing they are the best chance for their grandkids to grow up healthy and happy.

“That misconception of they’re just taking care of them because it is a task they were they were forced to do that. They are there because they want to raise those kids. They want to make sure that they’re getting the resources and they’re thriving in their school, in their community and in their homes,” said Garcia.

Broughton’s home is certainly a place of learning, love, and laughter. She just has one hope for each of them.

“Each one of them, I just want to be productive citizens. I’m not going to sit here and say they must be a doctor, they must be a lawyer. That’s not for everyone. But I want them to be God-fearing, good people,” said Broughton.

The last Grand Families Event of the year is happening on May 4 with over 46 community resources available. It is happening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Pinellas Performing Arts Center.

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