In Canada, between 2009-10, there were 14,000 LGBT grandparent families caring for 18,900 grandchildren. It’s a situation fraught with groundbreaking legal and financial difficulties, and many LGBT grandparents are being thrust back into the grand-parenting role without a lot of consultation. Share with us the experience of one set of LGBT grandparents, and the challenges facing LGBT grandparents raising grandchildren in Toronto.
Mark Gareth, (57), and his partner of twenty years, Glenn Booth, (59), live in a four bedroom home in Toronto’s Bayview Village , and have been looking after their grandchildren – Samantha, aged six, and Rory, three – since the children were removed from their parents by Toronto Childrens Aid Society two years ago.
Gareth explains –‘We’re from North Bay originally, but we’ve been living in Toronto now for 19 years and we raised one adopted son, Robert, of our own. We’ve had our grandchildren for two years. They’re our son, Robert’s children. At first we only thought it would be for a while – we were given custody after they were removed from their parents by the children’s services because they were being neglected by our son and daughter-in-law and nobody else could take them. Our son lives in Thunder Bay and he’s still with the children’s mother. They’ve got another child on the way. They want custody, but they both have severe substance abuse problems and both are HIV/AIDS positive’.
Booth tell us –‘The children’s mother is of Canadian First Nations decent, and we are keen for the grandchildren to maintain links to their original culture. They’d been staying with an auntie on the mother’s side on a reserve, but she couldn’t manage them. Because they have such a large extended family on that side, I felt it was probably wrong that children’s services asked us to take them, and for a while we was worried the family might come and try to take them back. But nobody’s ever been near us, so we feel quite safe with them now’.
‘For the first time in our lives we were beginning to plan, maybe to move into a smaller condo and take some holidays. Before we had the grandchildren, we were able to see them in Thunder Bay as often as we wanted; Glenn was working full-time and we could afford it. But it’s all gone backwards now we’re parents again’. Says Mark.
‘I had to pack up my job even though I didn’t want to. I really loved my job. But we couldn’t manage my working and caring for the children. It was putting a strain on Mark, as he had to care for them all day. We were both getting very tired’. Glenn adds.
Glenn leaves us with this thought – ‘I do feel as though they are missing out on us being their grandparents. Because they’re living with us and we’re their primary care givers, I don’t feel as though we’re their grandparents anymore’.