Thank you to Donna Henson with Grand Families for this week’s guest blog. We appreciate you sharing your journey and thank you for all the wonderful things you are doing! 

Donna HensonMy name is Donna Henson. In June of 2010, I received the news that my daughter, Christy, and her boyfriend had been arrested on drug charges and were in jail in Portland, Oregon. My two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Danni, had been taken by the police to a nearby hospital. There she tested positive for high levels of Meth. She was a sick little girl. Due to the fact that her paternal grandmother, in Portland, wanted nothing to do with her and that we lived in Tennessee, she was placed in Foster Care.

That July, on our family vacation, I walked the beach and cried. I cried to my daughter, Angela, saying “I just can’t do this! I cannot go through this again. I raised her mother and I can’t do it again!”

It is impossible to describe all of the emotions, fears and prayers that were going on in our home. My husband, Dick, and I had been empty nesters for a few years. We traveled, ran our business and thought we would continue that way until retirement. However, on November 7, 2010, Christy passed away. She had an infection that led to a brain hemorrhage. This was the direct result of drug use. She died alone in a Portland hospital.

Because we lived in a different state, Dick and I had to become certified Foster Parents. During the next year, we attended Path classes, made six trips to Portland, completed voluminous forms and fell in love with a very special little girl. Danni moved into our home on October 8, 2011. Our adoption was finalized on December 31, 2013 and Danni officially became Dannielle Marie Henson.

We can never repay the wonderful Foster Care family that gave Danni unconditional love and guidance. They are still on our list of best friends. The help and advice we received from our DCS Worker and our ICP Worker was invaluable. And, of course, the Path Classes! Having raised six children, Dick and I were not only resistant to taking the classes but, also resentful. We are now so grateful for all that we learned.

Danni’s brother came to live with us two years ago. So, we are now raising two children, seven and fifteen. These children have special needs that we never had to deal with before. This brings me to our counselor. It was a requirement of the State of Oregon that Danni continue to have on going counseling during our period of temporary guardianship. On the advice of our ICP worker we were led to Cookie Oakley. She works with all of us. One day, I mentioned to Cookie that I didn’t know how grandparents survive without the training and assistance we received. I told her Dick and I would like to do something to help these people. She had beaten me to the thought a year earlier. So, she said “let’s do it!”

Grand Families is the result. We hope to offer support and training to as many kinship families as possible. It is a way for Dick and I to give back and try to make life a little easier for folks living with difficult situations. There are times when I think I can’t go on another minute. The next minute, I receive an unexpected hug from a teenager or a beautiful drawing from a seven-year-old.

If you are raising a child of extended family members, you are a Grand Family. Thank you for being there for them. We hope you will join us as we work together to break the link of substance abuse and send healthy, successful children out into the world.