DEAR ABBY: I have custody of my granddaughter, "Natasha," because my son and daughter-in-law divorced when Natasha was 3 months old. My daughter-in-law got involved with drugs and gave the baby to my son. My son had an accident and gave custody of Natasha to me because he could no longer take care of her.
When I turned 57, I sent Natasha to live with my daughter and son-in-law because I thought I was getting too old to have a 9-year-old.
A year ago, I found out that my son-in-law had been molesting Natasha, and I took her back. We went to the prosecuting attorney. After a year of counseling and trials, my son-in-law was found guilty of child molestation in the first degree.
Abby, when will my daughter stop blaming Natasha and me? She's telling everybody that Natasha lied -- that her husband never touched the child. She insists Natasha lied because she never liked her uncle. It has been a year now. Will my daughter ever get over it? -- TROUBLED MOM IN WASHINGTON
DEAR TROUBLED MOM: Your daughter is in denial, and there's no guarantee she'll ever get over it. Had there not been corroborating evidence to back up the accusation, I'm sure there wouldn't have been a conviction.
It seems that you are the only stable adult in Natasha's life. Although raising a child alone is difficult at your age, I hope you'll find the strength to do it.
Believe me, you are far from alone in having to assume the role of parent to a grandchild. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the number of children being raised by grandparents increased by 44 percent between 1980 and 1990. That figure went up 23 percent between 1990 and 1997. As of 1999, 1.4 million children live apart from their parents in households headed by grandparents.
In 1987, a support network called GAP (Grandparents as Parents) was founded that facilitates the sharing of experiences and feelings between grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. It provides information and referrals, a telephone support network, group member listing and assistance in starting groups.
To contact them, write: GAP, P.O. Box 964, Lakewood, Calif. 90714. (Please enclose a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope.)
A service sponsored by AARP called the Grandparents Information Center also refers custodial grandparents to support groups nationwide, and provides free publications on a variety of issues related to raising grandchildren, financial assistance and advocacy. To contact them, write: Grandparents Information Center, 601 E St. S.W., Washington, D.C. 20049.