Dr. Lillian Carson

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Grandparents in the News

May 9. 2007     
Assemblyman Van Tran's Bill Protecting Families Signed By Governor Schwarzenegger
      AB 2517 received broad bi-partisan support

SACRAMENTO - Yesterday Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Van Tran's Assembly Bill 2517. AB 2517 would allow grandparents to petition the court for visitation of their grandchild, after their grandchild has been adopted by a new stepparent. Visitation would be granted by the court if visitation with the grandparent is in the best interest of the child.

"When situations arise between adults, children are often the ones that lose; they have no rights when visitation issues occur with grandparents," states Tran. "Children should be allowed to know and maintain loving relationships with their grandparents."

Often families are ripped apart through divorce or other negative circumstances. Solid relationships that children could once count on, are then in doubt and become less stable. Stability can come through maintaining strong grandparent/grandchild relationships through those family changes.

"I am pleased that the Legislature has worked with me to send this important measure to the Governor for his signature," said Tran. "In today's changing families, it is crucial to foster healthy, loving, supportive relationships between grandparents and grandchildren."

It is common knowledge that children who have strong, loving adults in their lives thrive. Grandparents can be that strong, loving adult for a child. These relationships become even more vital during difficult times of disruption in changing families. AB 2517 allows for loving and supportive grandchild/grandparent relationships to continue when they are needed most.

AB 2517 was sponsored by Susan Hoffman, a constituent of the 68th Assembly District and a grandmother. The bill received broad bi-partisan support and received no opposition through the entire legislative process.

Assemblyman  Van   Tran
Assembly District 68

An Essential Grandparent idea that is catching on:

I received a call from a fellow grandma who wanted to thank me for an idea in my book: a celebration for an expectant or new grandparent. She gave a luncheon for about-to-be grandma Mary,  and was still basking in the afterglow. The 6 guests ranged in age from 60 to 85. "We all brought gifts and advice. The best part was that each guest got to tell her own grandparent story. That was so meaningful. It was a joyous occasion for all and really energizing!"

...and read on. This article is excerpted from the Life supplement of the Los Angeles Times.

"I'm so hard to surprise." says Gloria Bryan of Baltimore, Maryland, her voice still filled with joy, "but this just floored me."  It was for a brand new kind of celebration: a 'grand-baby shower'  The baby will be born in Alaska -where Bryan's son and his wife lives-and grandma felt helpless in Maryland. So her niece, Kelly, secretly rounded up family and friends and booked a large table at a tearoom. At the afternoon fete, tea was sipped, biscuits were nibbled, and baby gifts were opened. Other patrons were a bit puzzled. "We had balloons tied to my aunt's chair that said BABY SHOWER; she's 55 and got some pretty funny looks. "Becoming a grandparent is a singular event," she says. "The happiest day of my life was when my son was born, and now I get to watch that same joy on his face. The idea of your baby having a baby...it's more than I can comprehend"

The Essential Grandparent's Healthy Foods

If you're like me, your'e always on the lookout for for healthy snacks for the children. Of course, baking cookies and special sugary treats are fun and tastey but we need to think about health too. And remember, we must set a good example!

Here's an idea that is a good, healthy treat. Of course it's good anytime but is especially good for breakfast because it kick starts the day with protein. It's also good for those kids who don't want breakfast or are in a hurry. Keep them in a plastic bag in the freezer. You might enjoy them yourself!

"Grab and Go" Breakfast on a Stick

    1 to 2 bananas
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    2 (6 0z) cartons low fat strawberry yogurt
    1 (16 ounce) package frozen whole strawberries, partially thawed with juice
    2 teaspons confectioner's sugar
    1/4 cup fat-free milk

    • Place bananas and lemon juice in blender, blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
    • Pour mixture into 5-ounce paper drinking cups (waxed).
    • Arrange filled cups on tray. Stand a wooden Popscile stick upright in each cup. (I use wooden coffee stirrers)
    • Freeze overnight. Makes 8 to 9 servings.
    • Run a little water on the cup to loosen.

Supreme Court Upholds Grandparent's Rights in Ohio

Published: New York Times, March 6, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider making it harder for grandparents to win visitation rights, rejecting an appeal from a dad who went to jail to fight a court-ordered visitation.

Brian Collier had asked the justices to strike down Ohio visitation laws, on grounds that they interfere with parents' rights to raise their families free from government interference.

Collier's daughter is 7 and for most of her life has been the center of an emotional legal dispute in the small Ohio town of Wooster, about 30 miles southwest of Akron.

The girl's mother, Renee Harrold, was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant and decided not to have treatment until after the child was born, according to court records. The woman died in 1999, when Brittany Renee was 2.

Collier, who never married the mother, later won custody of his daughter but refused to let the girl see her maternal grandparents.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the girl should be allowed to maintain contact with the grandparents who had raised her until she was 5 years old.

Collier served a brief jail sentence in 2003 for contempt of court, for blocking the visitation. He maintains that the grandparents, Gary and Carol Harrold, are trying to turn his daughter against him.

The Supreme Court has dealt before with grandparent visitation, in a fractured 2000 ruling that said states must be careful in helping grandparents and others with close ties to children win the right to see them regularly against parents' wishes.

The decision was written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired earlier this year.

Collier's lawyer, Lawrence Whitney of Akron, Ohio, told justices that they should revisit to the issue, to bolster parents' rights.

''Any statute allowing any non-parent visitation rights in contravention of a fit parent's wishes is repugnant to that parent's constitutional rights,'' he wrote in the appeal.

The grandparents were granted visitation in part under an Ohio law that allows visits when the parent of a child has died.

The case is Collier v. Harrold, 05-871.

Grandfamilies' sprout to raise generation with absentee parents

By Brian Ballou
Boston Herald, Thursday, March 2, 2006

Dominic Hill was born to a drug-addicted mother 16 years ago and was diagnosed with several health problems that likely stunted his growth and ability to learn.

Now he has a new challenge in his life. He was shot in the arm Feb. 18 as he pedaled his BMX-style bike toward Egleston Square to visit friends. The bullet took a cruel path through his spleen and spinal cord and he will probably never walk again.

In the days after he was shot, Dominic, just under 5 feet and 100 pounds, would reach down along his hospital bed, touch his legs and wonder what sort of medical contraption was impeding the sensation.

Alice Hill, his 80-year-old grandmother and guardian, tried to explain. "I don't think he understands what happened," she said.

More than ever, grandparents are assuming the role of parent to grandchildren, creating grandfamilies. There are 3 million such families in the United States, according to Census statistics. The grandparents mostly take over for drug-addicted parents, while incarceration, nonfunctioning parents and illness are factors.

Hill has her hands full. She is a tall woman and her gait is not what it used to be. She uses a cane to get to and fro and her movements are slow, deliberate and seemingly painful. She lost her house several months ago and now lives in a cramped apartment in the Grove Hall section of Roxbury.

She became Dominic's guardian soon after he was born to prevent him from ending up in foster care.A Department of Social Services spokesperson said yesterday Hill is the guardian of two grandchildren, but Hill said last week she takes care of four grandchildren full time.

According to DSS, there was a neglect case a couple of years ago involving Dominic, and another issue in which he had missed a substantial amount of school.

"Often when we work with youth who have a history of not attending school, there is a learning disability or an attention deficit disorder, and that wouldn't be unusual in this case," said Mia Alvarado, DSS spokeswoman.

Currently, Dominic has missed at least four months of school, the grandmother said. He last attended the McKinley School in the Fenway area. A Boston Public Schools spokesperson was unable to confirm Dominic's attendance record yesterday.

There is also a criminal record. Dominic had three short stays with the Department of Youth Services, according to an agency spokesperson. The teen spent 16 days in custody in July 2003 on and armed robbery charge, 12 days in January 2005 for an undisclosed reason and 11 days in September on a gun possession charge.

"The system failed this boy," said Lillian Carson, a well-known psychotherapist who has been in practice for 35 years and wrote "The Essential Grandparent: A Guide to Making a Difference."

"These grandparents need help, they need a support group," said Carson, who lives in Southern California.

"Many of these children come with a lot of baggage, and all of a sudden, the grandparents find themselves in the role of parent again. It may not be the case that the grandparent was negligent, but rather that she didn't have any support."

In 1998, Boston became the first city in the country to create housing specifically for "grandfamilies," with 26 two- to four-bedroom apartments. There is an on-site manager and social worker, after-school class, homework assistance, senior fitness class, van service and myriad programs. New York has followed the example, and other cities soon will do the same.

As for Alice Hill, Alvarado said, "The department is taking a look and will talk with her about what additional services she needs for support during this terrible time."

California Legislative Update February 27, 2006

The bill allowing grandparents to petition the court for visitation, after a stepparent adoption has occurred, has been introduced.  It is Assembly Bill 2517.  You can track the bill online by going to www.assembly.ca.gov. Then on the left, click on legislation, and a window will come up for you to enter the bill number. 

Currently, the bill is now in the "in print" phase.  This means it will remain in its introduced form for 30 days.  After 30 days is up, it can be heard in Committee and amended.

Help for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

February 11. 2003
Dear Dr. Carson: In Canada we have a online support group for grandparents who are raising grandchildren and those who are denied access. http://www.geocities.com/canadiangrandparents/
Betty Cornelius-Founder of CANGRANDS
RR # 1 McArthurs Mills
Ontario, Canada K0L 1M0

Grandparents' Rights Law Invalidated

From Associated Press, October 9, 2003
         Des Moines - The Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a state law guaranteeing visitation rights to grandparents as an unconstitutional intrusion on parent's rights.
         The court said it's unconstitutional for judges to question a parent's decision unless the child is in danger.
         The ruling prevents the state from intervening in the case of Arnie and Lucille Lamberts, who wanted visitation with their granddaughter. The couple's daughter died during childbirth, and they said their relationship with their former son-in-law had deteriorated.
         The ruling marks the third time the state court has struck down laws that let grandparents sue for visitation rights.

Do Grandparents have legal rights?
Children's, Parent's and Grandparent's rights are all at stake as The Supreme Court agrees to hear case involving visitation.

The Supreme Court of the United States
In The Matter Of The Visitation of Natalie Anne Troxel and Isabelle Troxel, Minors.

Troxel, Jenifer and Gary Troxel
Granville, Tommie

As a national grandparent spokesperson I have a particular interest in this case, which was heard January 12, 2000, testing grandparent rights and, by doing so, redefining parental rights and the rights of children. The recent Washington State Court ruling in this case and rulings in at least five other states have eroded the rights of grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren. If this ruling is upheld, no grandparent will have the right to ask a court for visitation unless able to prove that the child is in danger.

I do not know whether the Troxels should be granted visitation rights but I do believe that the court needs to reaffirm the rights of grandparents to petition for this right and to clarify across the states children's rights to enjoy this intergenerational bond. It is necessary to look at this issue from all three points of view:

1. Grandparent's Rights
A grandparent's love for a grandchild is not conditioned on whether the child was born out of wedlock and does not end with a divorce or death of a parent.

2. Children's Rights
Children have the right to the companionship and love, care, mentoring, role modeling, family history and connection and stability that grandparents provide.

3. Parent's Rights
Parent's have the right to raise their children without State interference. However, children are protected by the State in cases of abuse, neglect, denial of schooling or life saving treatment. It is abusive to break an existing emotional and psychological bond between grandparent and grandchild.

  • The Courts Must Recognize How The Family Has Changed
    40 to 50% of all children are expected to experience their parent's divorce. 32% of children are born out of wedlock. Society depends upon the stability of the extended family.

  • The Incongruence Among States Grandparent Visitation Laws Calls For Uniformity
    The statutes vary tremendously between states. Most states allow grandparent visitation rights when the parent of a child dies. All but a few states will respect the parent's wishes if their marriage is intact and both parents oppose visitation.

  • All 50 States Have Laws That Entitle Grandparents
    To Petition For Visitation With Grandchildren If They Can Show That It's "in the best interest of the child."
    The American Bar Association has created a seven part test to determine this standard. These seven tests create clear, detailed criteria. The threshold question should be whether emotional bonds have been established and whether the grandparent has enhanced or interfered with the parent-child relationship.

  • The Court Should Be A Last Resort
    Ideally these conflicts would be resolved within the family. I recommend that the parties go to mediation with a trained mediator, viewing litigation as a last resort.

  • Grandparents Should Not Loose The Right To Petition
    I do not know whether the Troxels should be granted visitation rights but I strongly believe that the court should reaffirm the rights of grandparents across the States to petition the court for this right and, thereby, protect children's rights to enjoy their grandparental ties.

This case exemplifies the changed family of the new millennium. Civil society depends upon the stability of the extended family.

Grandchildren inherit, not only the legacies that their elders impart but also the void that is left by what they withhold. Never doubt it: Grandparents are essential!

Amicus briefs have been filed by the following: AARP and Generations United, Grandparents United For Children's Rights, Inc., American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and National Conference of State Legislatures


I attended the hearing at the Supreme Court in Washington D. C. It was awesome to sit in the highest court of the land before the nine distinguished Justices. What a thrill to know that ordinary people can be heard in this high court.

I had the good fortune of sitting next to a knowledgeable young lawyer who wrote the grandparent visitation statute for the State of Tennessee. He told me that he has many grandparents coming to him for assistance who are actually being held hostage by their adult children or in-law children for money. For example "If you pay my rent, you can see your grandchildren." A real eye opener.

The Washington State statute is overly broad as it states that "any person at any time my petition the court for child visitation."

By their questions to the lawyer on both sides, the Justices demonstrated their full understanding of this case and its far-reaching ramifications. A ruling against the grandparents will result in a new standard throughout the 50 States and grandparents will then have to show that harm will come to the grandchild deprived of their company. This is much more difficult to prove than the current standard which requires the petitioner to show that visitation is in "the best interests of the child."

I met a group of 15 grandparents from Connecticut who have formed a organization entitled GRACE (Grandparents and Children Embrace). Their common bond is that they have all be denied access to grandchildren. As I spoke with each of them they all began with the statement "I never thought this would happen to me." These grandparents often have access to some grandchildren. They have banded together for emotional support and to convert their despair and anger into working for legislation that could help them gain access. As I interviewed them, I searched for underlying pathology that might explain why. As a psychotherapist I discovered nothing untoward. They are middle-class, educated grandparents, mostly professional (3 are lawyers), who are heartbroken about their lack of access to their grandchildren.

I am especially concerned about children's rights. When a child has an established, positive relationship with a grandparent and is then deprived of the grandparent's companionship, it is psychologically detrimental to that child, not to mention a great loss of future benefits, from the intergenerational relationships.

Grandmothers Plead For Return as Grandson is Held in U.S.

Grandparents are again in the news as Elian Gonzalez' grandmothers came to the United States from their homes in Cuba to persuade the courts to honor the INS ruling and allow their 6 year old grandson to be returned home to his biological father and loving family. This little boy saw his mother drown, as well as all of the others in the group who were trying to reach the Florida shores in rough seas. Alone and clinging to life on an innertube, he was miraculously rescued, only to become a political pawn between Cuban expatriates in Florida and his family and mother country.

As a psychotherapist who has treated children and families for 30 years I understand the need of children to have continuity in their lives. This child needs a familiar, safe place with those he knows and loves to feel comforted and to mourn the loss of his mother and come to terms with this confusing interruption in his life.

His father, with whom he lived 5 days a week, grandparents who long for him and a familiar bed await his return. Trips to Disneyland, the puppy, a shiny bicycle and the other material gifts being lavished upon him by his unfamiliar relatives do not answer his emotional needs. If these are not met, life long emotional problems will result.

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