More than 110,000 children in Mississippi, are being raised by grandparents according to the Pinebelt Association for Families, in Hattiesburg. Often, the biological parents are drug abusers, have mental health issues or disabilities and can't take care of the children. Executive Director Sylvia Forster says the caregivers range in age from about the 50's to the 80's, and have health concerns of their own.
"I had one person who is actually on no medication, which I was thunderstruck by that. But all of the rest, 74 of them, have lots of medications and lots of knee replacements, hips, rotary cuffs," said Forster.
Her group provides workshops about a range of issues, including healthy eating and exercise. They take field trips and make friends. It's helped 52-year old Tama McGill of Hattiesburg, who has been raising her eight-year old granddaughter since the child was 14 months. Her son is an alcoholic and the child's mother was addicted to cocaine and later died. Then, two years ago, McGill's husband also passed away. She's developed Fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain and Myopathy, a muscle tissue disease. McGill now exercises at the YMCA and has lost 27 pounds.
"The "Y" has been the most amazing thing in helping me to get my diabetes under control. When I got to the "Y" and got around people, I some how got calm, in another zone and I was able to exercise, especially in the water," said McGill.
Tama McGill says her granddaughter is an honor roll student and in the gifted program at school. She wants to be a doctor.