Donald B. Avery

Don Avery with 2 dogs

Grandparents Raising GrandchildrenMy lived Experience

I became a grandparent in 1990, again in 1994 and 1996. Those early years were very rewarding as I watched them grow and become young adults and set their sights on becoming their own person. They all flourished in their schooling. 

In addition to my own family, my wife and I provided a loving home to numerous teenagers over a period of 15 years or so.

The latter was foster parenting, though. We received remuneration for this valuable, caring role.

However, that wasn’t the case in taking on the task as primary caregiver to our great-granddaughter, who was 8 months old at the time. It has proven to be a huge financial strain.

I would estimate we have spent close to $80,000 caring for our great-granddaughter now 4 years old and granddaughter (Great Granddaughter’s biological mother) now 23 since September 2015 to today.

Our granddaughter has been battling mental health issues since she was 4 years old which led to a number of factors and unhealthy coping mechanisms. This is a factor in leaving some parents unable to raise their children. Often in such cases, grand parents step in and step up.                               

The reason why we chose to take our great-granddaughter under our wing was simple.“First of all it’s love – love for that child – and keeping her within the family.“We just do it…people keep saying to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ It is not always an easy walk in the park, gleefully pushing a stroller or holding a grandchild’s hand. There are many challenges, including but certainly not limited to cost.                 

Support is key.

I was encouraged to start my own support group in Charlottetown and was impressed when 13 people showed up for the first meeting on Jan. 2016 in donated space at Murphy’s Community Centre.

“The feedback I received from the initial 13 people, told me that a grandparent group was a resource that is needed in Charlottetown. 

We brought people to meetings to get advice and guidance on matters like finances, legal matters such as guardianship, mental health care and addiction treatment. I was able to take advantage of a program called CRAFT-Community Reinforcement and Family Training which is a family training program for concerned others living with addictions. This certainly has made me aware today that its an ongoing battle to try to understand this addiction issue.

It soon became apparent that two major factors  were most evident for the reason grandparents were performing this needed care, Mental Health and Addictions. I found this to be true on PEI as well as across Canada.

Addictions was the major reason for our granddaughter’s spiral, and we felt every bit of what it was doing to her and her family. Her biological mother and father were out west working, granddaughter was there for a period of time, and in 2015 gave birth to her child. In October of that year she came back from Alberta and her addiction continued on PEI. She was in a very toxic relationship and it was no place to be raising a child. In February of 2016 she left that relationship. Addictions has no barriers; it can start anywhere and end up anywhere across this country.

Tension within the family was not good, so in order to protect the 8 month old great granddaughter Child Protection Services and us intervened and took this young child into our care while giving her mom supervised visits.

I must admit that we enabled our granddaughter, enabling an addict hinders their chances of getting clean. If you allow them to steal from you or your family members and you don’t call the police you are showing them they can get by with anything. 

I don’t know how much money she would beg for, but I would definitely say each time it would no less than $60. They are master manipulators, they are very resourceful, 99% of what they say is a lie. No matter how many times we told her there is no money, she was relentless in her pursuit of getting enough money for her next fix.

Our only relief would be when she went into treatment and even then she was asking for food, cigarettes etc. It took a hour to drive to the treatment center one way. The stress level that we put ourselves under is incredible and its effects your work and everything you do, you are always on guard and you don’t want to upset the applecart. You get consumed in what they do, that you miss out on family get togethers, and friends become less important.                                    

Christmas’s become the most stressful and it shouldn’t be that way, however when a family member is an active addict you question yourself if you want to allow that person to be with you during these times.  

I remember an instance happened when her and her drug buddy smashed in our front door at 4:00am , a blinding snowstorm outside, she woke us up, she got her daughter up as well, we felt very threatened.

She was looking for cheques, told her what she wanted them for, she said her friend needed them to pay a bill, we called police but by the time they got here she had left—no cheques,  now anybody in their right mind wouldn’t ask that, but an addict doesn’t think that way. 

I strongly recommend do not pay their drug debt. Its ok to buy them used clothing every now and then. (REMEMBER THEY WILL SELL OR TRADE NEW CLOTHING). 

A couple weeks later she went into treatment, that time she drove herself at 9:00 pm  and we as well as great grand daughter met her there. Her drug dealer was there as well demanding from us that she owed him money and he wanted it now, needless to say he never got any from us.

 I had to take her car home with me as she wasn’t allowed to leave it there, remember trying to wind down the window to air out the stench in car and the damn window broke, drove from Mount Herbert to Bonshaw a hours drive home , cold outside ,not a fun drive.

When I checked out the car the next morning it became apparent that her drug use was becoming out of control, I took out approx. 100 used needles and other paraphernalia. She asked me to check her apartment , I can’t remember why, when I went to check this out the next morning, I was in total shock with the amount of needles strewn about and the total  disregard for safety. Took me about 3 hours to clean that mess up. Took three sharps boxes to local pharmacy for disposal.

Numerous apartments and numerous boyfriends have plagued her for the past 5 years. She can never follow tenant rules and always get evicted for drug usage or fighting with boyfriends.

We always knew when she would be actively using , the first clue would be when she wanted to change the supervised visits. She has for the past 5 years been on supervised visits and no over-nite visits.                                        

After a few more failed attempts to get sober she went back to STRENGTH. A program that helps youth with Mental Health and Addictions challenges to regain their lives.  For the first time in over a year she decided to get clean. The STRENGTH program was a success for almost a year, granddaughter became the granddaughter  we knew before addictions, no outbursts and she listened to reason.

She moved in with her dad in July of 2018 as we were not going to put ourselves through that craziness again. 

Her new drug became Alcohol. She had a new car, was doing her visits and doing what Child Protection Services were requiring her to do.

She was attending the REACH program, The Prince Edward Island Reach Foundation is a not-for-profit organization focused on the rehabilitation and recovery of island youth who are struggling with mental health and addictions issues. The Reach Foundation provides a safe, structured environment that assists youth in the identification and development of transferable skills related to employment while providing support and guidance with recovery through life skills, coaching, and motivation to build confidence and self-esteem. Our foundation provides a healthy and therapeutic learning and healing environment for both youth and their family members while promoting addictions and mental health education and awareness in the community.    and getting paid for her attendance.  She was out drinking and driving  one evening , she lost control of her car, flipped it and wrote it off, she got charged for impaired driving, she got 7 days in jail, & a $1000 fine and  a $350 to Victims of Crime fund.  Not sure why it went array  but a month before Christmas she began to use again. She would make excuses that she couldn’t  see her daughter because she wasn’t feeling well, that was a clue for us to say she’s using again.

After going through Addictions one more time she went back to the Strength program and once again this failed as she broke the rules and was asked to leave.                                      

“The longer someone misuses opioids, the less self-control that person will have, it gets more and more difficult to resist taking the drug, or to follow through on a resolution to quit.

The brain is like a car that, besides having no brakes, has a steering wheel that works poorly, or doesn’t work at all” (quote from the National Institute on Drug Abuse).

It’s still too early to tell what the results will be, HOPE is a word that we use a lot. Our great Granddaughter is in a safe place under the care of her father and his family and she truly loves her mom and knows her mother well enough when something isn’t right and withdraws from any drama. Supervised visits are still in place, but a lot of work needs to be done on her part to have those lifted.

She spent 33 days of a 90 day requirement in an off Island treatment center last year but was again asked to leave because rules cant be followed.

Another trip to Addictions Centre was a complete failure, spent seven days in detox and was scheduled to go into a 21 day transitions period, but the day she was scheduled to transition she was given a 12 hour pass, I was visiting her on this particular day and voiced concern about the 12 hour visit but was told , she’s an adult. She’s may be 23 year adult in body, but a 12 year old in mind.

Out of the last 5 Christmas’s  we allowed our granddaughter to be with us and her child, but set boundaries to follow and if you can’t follow these you will be asked to leave, well this past Christmas 2019 was the first time in 5 years that boundaries we asked her to follow ,she succeeded in following these and we had a very nice Christmas with her and her daughter without drama.

It fell apart again New Years Eve, she had cancelled her visit earlier this day and we found out New Years Day she was severely beaten as she owed money and to show fear they beat her in front of her friends. Ended up in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and is again in Mount Herbert  treatment centre. Its been 5 years now and granddaughter is still active in her addictions and her biological child who is also five is well aware mommy is not well.

There are three guiding principals, also known as the 3 C’s that can help addicts and their loved ones understand the disease.                                     




Our journey continues, and sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.  THANK You!!!!!