Strong coverage by CNN as part of their “Hero” profiles: André de Toledo, who’s daughter Nikki de Toledo, after years of struggling with depression, killed herself with a prescription drug overdose when she was 27. Nikki didn’t leave a suicide note, but she did leave her 8-year-old son, Kevin.
Ginette and André, Kevin’s grandparents, immediately took over custody, because Kevin’s father lived abroad and had never been a part of his life. And they were not alone: It’s often the grandparents who step up when a parent dies or is unable to take care of a child for other reasons, such as incarceration, abuse or mental illness. In 2011, there were at least 2.7 million grandparents raising a grandchild in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Now, more than a quarter-century later, the nonprofit she founded to help others in similar circumstances, GrandparentsAsParents.org, is a leader among 20 support groups across Los Angeles, and the nonprofit works with more than 3,000 families a year, providing them with financial assistance, legal advice and emotional support. More than 90% of the caregivers are grandparents, but the nonprofit also assists aunts, uncles, siblings and close friends who have stepped up to care for children when their biological parents can’t.
Quoting from the CNN profile: De Toledo said her group has kept thousands of children from entering the foster care system, and they’ve also kept siblings from being separated. “We’ve literally saved families,” she said. But the true heroes, she said, are the caregivers. “It’s really the grandparents and the relatives who are doing this that deserve the recognition for putting their own lives on hold,” she said. “I just was able to plant a seed with something that happened in my own family. … “From a family tragedy, something wonderful has happened.”