This past weekend, as families celebrated Grandparents Day we highlight someone who went above and beyond not only as a grandparent but as a parent to her grandkids. In Arizona, more than 100,000 kids are being raised by grandparents or other relatives, many of which will become new parents overnight, or work to recall parenting skills that were relinquished decades ago.

My name is Janice, I am a 68-year-old divorced mother of two and grandmother of two kids.

In 2000, I moved from Colorado Springs to Mesa. I purchased my retirement home and was leading a very full, fun active life with my peers.

Then I started noticing a change in my daughter and her family. They began giving excuses as to why I couldn’t see my grandchildren. I found out my daughter and her husband were using methamphetamine.

I told my daughter I was taking the children until she became clean and sober. To my surprise, my grandchildren did more of the intervention then I did. They told her they loved her very much but didn’t want to come home anymore. I was so proud of my grandchildren for their bravery and honesty. Two grueling hours later she agreed to let me have the children.

So I became a full time, single grandparent raising my 2 grandchildren. I was afraid I might not be strong enough to do it on my own, but I had to try. It was a very lonely time and it got really hard.

I lost my home and savings. I lost out on time with my peers­, but more importantly, I lost out on being a grandma, now I had to be the parent.

Because of their parents’ drug use, the children, then age 8 and 10, came with a lot of emotional baggage and neglect that needed attention. When they first came to live with me they were thin and had dark circles under their eyes. They had to be caught up on shots and clothes that fit, food for their bellies. It was a very difficult time and I didn’t know where to turn for help. Then I learned about Child Crisis Arizona.

Child Crisis Arizona played a big role in helping me survive. I joined their support group of other grandparents and relatives facing similar situations so I knew I wasn’t alone.

It was through Child Crisis Arizona that I learned about all of the resources available to me. As part of the agency’s kinship program, I took parenting education classes. Even though I had already raised my children, there were new things to learn about the life challenges my grandchildren might face and how to guide them.

Through Child Crisis Arizona we were able to go to baseball games, the children’s choir and the Nutcracker Ballet. We even took a trip to Washington DC (where they flew on a big plane for the first time in their lives) to advocate for other grandparents raising grandchildren.

With the help of the Child Crisis Arizona, I was able to make it through those tough and demanding times. They were my lifeline during those very hard years. Child Crisis Arizona is truly a diamond to this community and a valuable resource to us all.

One day, my grandson said to me, “I need you Grandma”. My granddaughter told me I “saved her life.”

It was one of the hardest times in my life and also one of the most rewarding times in my life.

I had my grandchildren for more than four years before I was convinced my daughter was clean and sober and their family was reunited.