"Can we live with you, Grandma?"
At 65, Harriet Jackson is parenting all over again. Harriet Jackson was 55 years old when the call came. "Grandma, we got an eviction letter," her teenage grandson said.
She had told her grandson that if anything bad ever happened at home, he should call her before he called anyone else. Jackson's daughter was an addict, so she was always worrying about her grandchildren.
"Pack some clothes for you and the babies," she said. "I'm coming to get you."
It was 2002. At the time, Jackson was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Southeast DC, enjoying retirement. She made room for seven-month-old twin boys, a toddler, and an eight year old. Her daughter's other children moved in with their father. "I had raised four children of my own, but I never thought I could raise a set of twins," says Jackson, a member of The National Center for Children and Families' (NCCF) KinNet Program, a support group for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relative caregivers in Washington, DC.
Three years after Jackson took responsibility for her grandchildren, a police officer showed up at her door with three more. Jackson, whose own son had been murdered, was now in charge of seven children. The twins needed to be potty-trained; the older children needed help with their math homework. "At one point I was crying all the time, trying to figure out what to do, but now I don't cry as much," says Jackson. "The KinNet meetings are a place for me to come and vent."
The twins, David and Daniel, are turning 10 this year. They’re happy, healthy, and polite.
"Sometimes when I'm getting ready to complain about something, I just stop in my tracks and say, God has been mighty good to me. He's allowed me to take care of my grandchildren," says Jackson. "If I'm okay, I can make sure the kids are okay."