When Louise Robinson’s daughter-in-law became terminally ill, she was heavy with grief. In addition, she found herself responsible for her two young grandchildren: twins Isaiah and Kiara. Suddenly, her life was forever changed. She felt that she had nowhere to turn. “I was at the point of giving up, really," Ms. Robinson remarked. "I mean, I was struggling…and to take on two extra mouths to feed, it was really difficult.”
Fortunately, she was soon referred to Bay Area Legal Services and began working with attorney Lisa Brody and paralegal Elmira Ruffin. They assisted Ms. Robinson in filing for a Temporary Custody Order, enabling her to care for all of the children’s needs until they turn eighteen.
For anyone in a similar situation, gaining legal custody is a necessity. “Relative Caregiver legal assistance provides stability and assurance to grandparents and family members caring for their relative minor children,” said Lisa Brody. “Without legal assistance and temporary custody, our community elders and family members are faced with stressful barriers in accessing healthcare, education and other needs for minor children that they are caring for.”
While Isaiah and Kiara were experiencing the toughest time in their young lives, legal assistance helped their grandmother ensure their stability. “They worked non-stop until they got it done,” Ms. Robinson said of her legal team. “I really think the highest of them. I really feel like God sent me to them, because they were what I needed at that moment.”
According to pbs.org, as of 2016 there were roughly 2.7 million grandparents raising their grandchildren in the United States. About one-fifth of these households fall beneath the poverty line. Establishing custody rights makes certain that these custodial grandparents have access to critical resources. However, as legal assistance is usually required, free legal aid services are a lifeline to these families.
With grants from the Pinellas Community Foundation and the Children’s Home Network, Bay Area Legal is able to take the journey with our clients to ensure that they obtain the legal status necessary to fully care for their loved ones and provide them with the security they need and deserve.
When asked about her grandchildren these days, Ms. Robinson told us, “They know they’re safe and they know they’re loved.”