March 15, 2019

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Grandparents raising grandchildren must be held in prayer

David Bethuram

(Editor’s note: The names used in this column have been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.)

Across the United States, more than 13 million children are living in homes with their grandparents. In Indiana 60,179 grandparents are in households responsible for their grandchildren who live with them and do not have parents present. Nearly 70 percent of these grandparents are under the age of 60,

60 percent are in the workforce, 19 percent live in poverty, 27 percent have a disability and 28 percent are unmarried. (

I had an amazing conversation with a lady named Ruth who has had custody of her granddaughter Autumn since the girl was 5.

Autumn’s mother brought her over to Ruth’s house, so she could baby-sit while the mother was going to work. Autumn’s mother never came back. Instead she went to another city miles away with her boyfriend. That was 10 years ago.

Autumn was an active young lady. It took her a while to settle into her new home. She was confused as to what was happening. She loved seeing her grandmother, but she wanted to go home to her mom. She had lots of questions, and being 5, she couldn’t put those questions into words. She adjusted, but when she turned 13 she began to have pains in her legs and muscles. She stopped playing basketball because she was hurting so much. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Ruth said that it took a while before she could get any kind of financial help. It was really a struggle for her emotionally. Ruth said she remembered the conversations she had with God at the kitchen sink. She kept asking, “Why me?” and then she said she received a sense of comfort, and the question was turned to, “Why not me?”

Ruth said she has had help from her church and Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities helped Ruth with community referrals for both her and Autumn. In addition, Catholic Charities helps her from time to time with food and utilities assistance. Ruth feels she now has people to call on at Catholic Charities. She said that kind of support means the world to her.

She said Autumn’s mother passed away six years ago. In the beginning, Ruth felt resentment, but over time she realized her daughter’s life was starting to go downhill with alcohol and drugs. She said she had more sympathy for her daughter and more compassion.

Ruth worries about what will happen to Autumn when she is not able to take care of her. She says she worries day and night. She says that sometimes when she is driving, she pulls over and cries. When she is done crying, she puts the car in drive and keeps going.

In our 30-minute conversation, I could see the face of Jesus in Ruth. She asked me to keep her in prayer. She looked to God to comfort her and give her strength.

It was a privilege to hear Ruth’s story. She and other grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are held in prayer for the loving care they are providing their grandchildren.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at

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