Batesville school program helps grandparents serving as parents

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Raising children can present many challenges for more than just parents.

Grandparents are increasingly becoming the primary caregivers for kids, a trend that one local school district has noticed more and more frequently.

That's why the Batesville School District started a program in 2009 called GAP, or Grandparents as Parents, to provide support and other resources to families like the Buies.

Terry and Cherie Buie have already raised two boys, but are now parenting again their nine-year-old granddaughter, Lizzie.

"We're lucky to have her," Cherie said. "She keeps us young."

"Always," added her husband Terry with a laugh.

The Buies' son was just 14 when Lizzie was born, and neither he nor his girlfriend at the time could fully provide for the child.

"[Lizzie's] mother decided she wanted to go to Kansas and just up and leave all of us," Cherie said. "Our son didn't have a leg to stand on."

Facing a situation where they had no idea where their granddaughter may go or when they might see her again, the Buies became Lizzie's legal guardian.

The years since have been anything but easy, but Lizzie brought home a flyer one day from school. It advertised the GAP Program, which has made a positive impact in more than just the Buie family's life.

"What we're hoping is that the ones that are faced with this situation have everything they do [need] to make it a positive situation for the child and the grandparent," said Lorrie McClure, who supervises the GAP Program and other similar services at Batesville Schools.

The GAP Program began with just 15 participants but has now grown to include more than 50 grandparents or guardians caring for children.

"We discuss legal issues," said GAP Program Director Sarah Prince about the quarterly meetings, "[and] just support that would be interesting to the grandparent or the guardian."

The meetings cover everything from financial planning to legal advice to technology to academic help.

"We do have lots of parent support and lots of programs to make sure that parents have the best support possible for the best academic outcome," McClure said.

The Buies joined the program four years ago and have since helped encouraged other families along the way.

"Some of these families have it a lot harder than what we've had," Cherie said. "We just try to call back and tell them it's going to be alright. No matter what happens, it's going to be alright.

"The thing is," she added, "whatever they're going through, it's going to pass. It's going to get better."

To sign up or find out more about the GAP Program, call the Batesville Early Learning & Enrichment Center at 870-793-0627.

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