Health

Second Time Around: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

GRG.JeanneSalvadoriFamily

Never in her wildest thoughts did Jeanne Salvadori think that after turning 60, her life would be filled with back-to-school shopping, pediatrician appointments and even potty training.

But it is. Due to a series of events, Jeanne and her husband Larry, 75, find themselves raising four grandchildren ranging from 5- to 11-years-old.

“I always wanted to live close to my grandchildren – I just didn’t want to be their mother,” said Salvadori with a light-hearted laugh. “When I was a parent the first time around, I was half this age and working half the time.

“I’m a little more tired this time.”

An estimated 22,000 grandparents and family relatives in San Diego County are in the same situation as the Salvadoris raising grandchildren. Jeanne has an important message for them she will be delivering as a keynote speaker at San Diego County’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren event Sept. 7.

“There is nothing unique about our story,” Salvadori said. “There are thousands of grandparents in San Diego trying to do right by their grandchildren.

“The whole reason I wanted to speak is to talk about how important it is to have grandparents and other relatives connecting with their children’s schools,” she said.

Salvadori, who raised three children of her own, is a school nursing services program specialist with the San Diego County Office of Education.

She said it’s important for whoever is responsible for raising a child to ensure the child has a healthy connection to his school and the necessary adult support to make that happen.

“My point is I wish I had this information the first time around,” she said. “A lot of grandparents are struggling trying to raise grandchildren.”

Salvadori plans to highlight the 40 Developmental Assets from the Search Institute as a great guide for parents or caregivers. The assets are age-appropriate suggestions for raising children to be healthy, caring and responsible, according to the website.

“It’s so important,” she said. “We as grandparents may miss the mark, but you do your best, and with more information the chance of success is greater.”

The Salvadoris took custody of their grandchildren on Sept. 22, 2010.

“I remember that day distinctly,” she said. “The children and their mother were staying with us at the time.

“I came home early that day and Larry asked if I had gotten his message.”

He was trying to get a hold of her to let her know that Child Protective Services wanted to meet with them at 3 p.m. that day.

“He said, ‘we’re going to take the children,’” she said. “They would have to either be split up in foster care or go with us and we didn’t hesitate.”

The Salvadori’s son, who is the father of the children, was struggling with addictions and living in a rehabilitation center. The children’s mother was overwhelmed being a single parent.

The couple fortunately had a large enough house to accommodate the children.

“We had some items like jammies and toothbrushes since they had stayed with us,” she said. “But basically we had to start over with new clothes, toys, etc.”

The daughter-in-law remained very active in the children’s lives until she died unexpectedly just over a year ago at the age 26.

“The hardest thing Larry and I ever had to do was tell the children they had no mother,” she said.

Their father is doing better now, and has been active in their lives. He’s been clean and sober for three years.

“He took a detour in life,” said Salvadori. “But he’s very involved in their lives and he’s a great dad.

“He wants nothing more than to get the children back, but he can’t find a job and isn’t in a financial position to do that right now.”

The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren event is being held at four different locations throughout the county from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7.

The main site is the Jacobs Center, 404 Euclid Avenue, San Diego. The keynote addresses will be webcast to three regional sites: Parkway Community Center, 373 Park Way, Chula Vista; Meridian Baptist Church, 600 S. 3rd St., El Cajon; and San Marcos Civic Center Dr., San Marcos.

For more information visit www.211sandiego.org/grandparents. To register, call (855) 238-5978.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact