Grandparents taking on parenting role a growing trend

Grandparents Dawn and Norman Arbogash build a diorama with their grandson, Jeffrey, at their Neenah home, on Thursday, February 19, 2015.
Grandparents Dawn and Norman Arbogash build a diorama with their grandson, Jeffrey, at their Neenah home, on Thursday, February 19, 2015.

Grandparents taking on the role of parent has become a rising trend.

But those in the midst of it say it comes with both challenges and rewards.

Like paint for their grandson Jeffrey's diorama, the Arbogash family home is blended. Not of colors, but of generations.

“Our daughter was in a pretty bad car accident when she was seven-and-one- half months pregnant,” said Dawn Arbogash. “Jeff and she both came to live with us.”

"I like them a lot, because they’re really nice,” her grandson said.

After ten-year-old Jeffrey was diagnosed with autism and Tourette’s syndrome, Dawn and her husband Norman took over care of their grandson full-time.

“To me, it was a no-brainer. That's just the way it is,” said Arbogash.

“It's a phenomena that's happening more and more, and for a variety of reasons,” said Chris Kniep.

Kniep works for the UW-Extension office in Winnebago County. Since 1999, she's run a support group for people just like the Arbogash family.

“They're no longer a grandparent, they're a parent. So they're teaching rules and boundaries and doing homework,” said Kniep.

Arbogash says she's found comfort with the nearly 60 other members.

“It's been great to be with people who have to be in the same position,” she said.

We checked into what resources are available for grandparents as parents. The State Department of Human Services offers Kinship Care.

“It's a financial program. We're also talking about medical assistance and daycare programs,” said Joyce Helz with Winnebago County Human Services.

Though kinship care is available statewide, not every county has a support group for grandparents acting as parents.

“Locally, there's not a whole lot. But grandparents are welcome in our parenting classes. They're welcome to participate in our home visiting services,” said Franchesca Carley with the Brown County Family and Childhood Resources Center.

The Brown County Family and Childhood Resource Center opens its playrooms to local grandparents.

“It's a destination to go to that you know is safe and you know that there will be other kids,” said Bobbi Zaker of Green Bay.

Zaker cares for two of her grandchildren, including two-year-old Eliana.

“You’re not the only person out here,” said FOX 11’s Kelly Schlicht.

“No, no, not by a long shot,” said Zaker. “I mean, you see it everywhere you go.”

Zaker says she's forging a special bond with her grandchildren. But, she says that doesn't mean there aren't challenges.

“It's not easy because you do have to take care of everything. And sometimes you think, well, maybe their mom should do more,” said Zaker. “But, she's working, too.”

Grandparents say it's not just the time, but the financial investment as well.

“They’re planning for their own retirement and now they have the financial challenges of raising children again,” said Helz.

“I'm going to have to work until I'm 71 or 72, until Jeffrey gets out of high school. That's a fact of life,” said Norman Arbogash.

But the Arbogash family says raising Jeffrey has been worth every second.

“I don't regret it for a second,” said Dawn.

“I don't either,” said Norman. “To see a smile on his face, fantastic.”

Click here for resources for grandparents in Brown County.

Click here for resources for grandparents in Winnebago County.

Click here for resources for grandparents statewide.