AUSTIN, Texas — For many children across Texas, their grandparents are guardian angels to them, protecting them and keeping them from harm.
Oftentimes when a child is on the verge of entering into the foster care system, it's a grandparent who steps in.
That was the case for Mercedes Bristol when she knew her grandchildren deserved better.
"I ended up adopting all five grandchildren. And so, now, I was 57 years old and now what do I do, you know? So, I looked for resources and I couldn't find any," Bristol said. "When I enrolled the kids in school, they said, 'Ms. Bristol, what do you need?' And I didn't know what I needed. I didn't know what was available. I didn't know the hardship that I was going to go through."
It was through her own struggle that she was able to cultivate a statewide support group, Texas Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, back in 2016. Bristol said now they have 17 support groups throughout the state.
It was through the support group that she was able to meet Gloria Adams, another grandmother who is also raising five of her grandchildren. She currently has three living with her. The two others are now young adults.
PHOTOS | Forever Families: Meet Mercedes Bristol and Gloria Adams
"In my case, the parent didn't lose custody until I actually went to court to ask for the custody of the children because one of the parents abandoned the children and the other one, my son, was in jail," Adams said.
Adams described the mental and emotional hardships she and her grandchildren have experienced over the years as a result of their parents not being in the picture.
"The very first instance, my grandchildren were with me for spring break and when I went to take the children back home, the mother wasn't there and we haven't seen or heard from her since," Adams said. "So, that was very heartbreaking. And it's heartbreaking for the children to know for themselves that they were abandoned by their mother."
She said the support group has changed her life for the better.
"Having the support groups and having the help of other grandparents to be able to talk these issues through, for me, is very comforting. To know that there's someplace I can go," Adams said.
The Austin support group meets on the last Wednesday of every month. The next meeting will be Wednesday, Feb. 23, from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at 6002 Jain Lane.
KVUE launched the Forever Families segment with Partnerships for Children (PFC) in June 2020 to highlight children in the Heart Gallery of Central Texas who need secure and permanent families. Every day, there are nearly 1,000 children waiting to get adopted in Central Texas, according to PFC.
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