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Fifteen years ago, Lori received an early morning call from the police.*
They explained that her daughter had just given birth in her home, and if Lori didn’t come get the baby, he would be turned over to the state. Still in her nightgown, she slipped on her boots and drove over to pick up her grandson.
“It’s important for family to be together,” Lori says. “I don’t want my grandchildren out there. I’d rather make sure they’re safe with us.”
Years later, when Lori got another call, this time from VOA Alaska, it was a welcome surprise.
“I was so thankful for her,” Lori says of Claire Sharp, the Family Care Coordinator on the other end of the phone working through her new caseload. “If it I wasn’t for Claire, I wouldn’t have got him into VOA services.”
Lori was not only a caregiver to her now teenaged grandson while also supporting her adult child, but her grandson had just been arrested for drinking.
VOA Alaska’s Family Services provides education, intervention, and therapeutic support for all families with youth enrolled in our services. For Kinship caregivers, such as Lori raising her grandson, the team offers additional support with case management, financial assistance, and respite care during family events.
“We’re inspiring families to continue supporting their youth through these difficult moments,” says Desiree Scott, Program Director of Family Services, “and giving them hope that it can get better.”
A highlight for many families at VOA Alaska is the weekly Family Support Group, which provides a safe place for parents and caregivers to share their experiences, struggles, successes, hopes, and fears.
Sarah Weber, Family Support Coordinator, launched the support group in October 2021. For her, Lori is a perfect example of who the group was designed to serve. Among her peers, Lori both receives support and is a valuable resource of support for others.
“She has an incredible amount of lived experience that she shares,” Sarah says. “Her struggles make her a huge resource for other parents who only just now are experiencing those same struggles for the first time.”
At first Lori was unsure about joining the group. Afterall, visiting a peer group for the first time can be a nervous experience. But after sharing her experiences and learning from the other caregivers, she now understands the benefits.
“I think it is really good for parents to communicate and feel like you’re not alone,” Lori says. “It’s very important to understand that we can help each other as parents and grandparents.”
“Connection is the key,” Sarah says. “Connection lets these families know they’re not alone and that recovery is possible not just for each individual, but for the family as a whole.”
*Name changed to protect confidentiality