Startling number of grandparents fight to see their grandchildren

Startling number of grandparents fight to see their grandchildren

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Many people who grew up with grandparents probably couldn’t imagine not having them in their life. But, a lot of adults never get a chance to know their grandchildren because they are cut off.

In some cases, there’s good reason, but many grandparents are told they can't see their grandkids and in Florida, they have no rights to petition to visit them outside of few exceptions.

Karen and her husband Adrian know this all too well.

"This is my granddaughters room," Karen said.

The room is filled with three generations of toys and mementos.

“This was actually my teddy bear when I was a baby," she said.

"These were mine and my daughter's troll dolls."

Too bad the person the room is meant for can't see it. 

"My friend actually gave me this table and chair set for her, poor child has never sat at it."

There were even birthday presents in the room Karen couldn’t deliver.

Even worse, she moved down here from Connecticut with her husband after finding out her daughter was pregnant.

"We were confident enough that we moved down here to be with them,” Adrian said.

Yet, because of a bad family feud last Christmas, they couldn't be farther apart. 

"This was not the typical holiday we walked into, I knew something was different," he added.   

"This was my fear. That she would do something this drastic," Karen said about being cut off from seeing her now 2-year-old granddaughter.  

Reporter: What do you miss about her?

“Everything, everything. Her sweetness. She'd hug me, she'd pat me on the back. She'd come to me with discoveries – the 'oooowww' – her excitement when she discovered something," Karen said.

The pain is so difficult, she went to counseling and also looked online for an outlet. 

That led her to a group called Alienated Grandparents Anonymous. She started the Pinellas County Chapter and now leads the meetings.

There's a total of 101 support chapters of AGA worldwide. The first one was started in Collier County by a woman named Amanda (yes, they never give out their last names b/c of the sensitive nature of what they're dealing with).

On a warm Sunday morning, Karen met with other grieving grandparents as kids near the age of their grandchildren played on a playground across the street. 

"Our battle here is to see our grandchildren," said Lynn Zellers, another member of the group.

A big goal for AGA to change Florida law. Every 20 years, a commission takes recommendations to revise the state’s constitution. Once the commission proposes amendments, you'll have the chance to vote on them next year in the 2018 midterm election. AGA members hope to take advantage of this rare opportunity. 

Zellers once had custody of her grandkids. Now, she can see them but knows it can change at any point. She's helping lead the fight for grandparent visitation rights. 

"We need to have that door open so a petition can be filed with the court,” she said.

"The children desperately need a positive connection with grandma and grandpa. If we look around at society, we can see that something is missing."

Back at Karen's house, despite having fallen out with her daughter, she still has pictures of her all over the house. 

Reporter: Do you guys think that would be fair to parents to come in and revise the constitution to say that you have rights to see the kids even if they don't want you to?

"You know I thought about that, it's a really really difficult question to answer. I do think in the case where there has been no solid reason for the estrangement or anything happened to the grandchild, then yes," Karen said.  

"Rights are only necessary when things go wrong that’s why we have rights," Adrian said.

Zellers started a petition hoping to garner support for changing the law. 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment