ASCI Presents: A Lived Experience Story ft. Victoria Giddens

Each month, A Second Chance, Inc. shares the voices of our kinship families through Q&A-style discussions. We are an agency that strives to provide a safe, secure, and nurturing environment to children in the care of relatives or close family friends—formally called kinship care. Our goal is to truly understand our kinship families by listening to the irreplaceable insights that the lived experience of caseworkers, caregivers, birth parents, and children can offer to make the narrative authentic and programming more meaningful. This month we had the pleasure of speaking with Informal Caregiver Victoria Giddens.

A Second Chance, Inc.: Tell us about your journey in becoming an informal kinship caregiver (KCG).

Victoria Giddens: Our journey began when my daughter wasn’t able to mentally or physically support or care for Tori (granddaughter) because of my daughter’s disability. [Additionally,] my granddaughter was born prematurely, and as the grandmother I chose to step to the plate and take care of her. It was like mothering kicks in when you’re raising a child, period. It never felt like she was my grandchild. She felt like she was my child, so the mothering kicked in automatically. I became her mother and in some ways her father. I thought that my children days were done, but knowing that she (Tori) at the time was two years old, she really needed me and honestly, I really needed her. I received full custody at that time.

ASCI: What tangible support(s) did you receive as informal KCG, if any? If not, what would be helpful?

VG: Financially, I did it. I supported her. I am a chef and leaned on my business to support us. [However] I did use my resources from agencies like grandparent stipend programs and government assistance.

ASCI: Tell us about your support system.

VG: Well first, God. Honestly, it was very spiritual. God guided me through this. It was hard for me to go from already raising my children to then going back to raising a baby again. I got support from my daughters.

ASCI: What does kinship care mean to you and why is it important?

VG: It’s very important. If I could speak on a spiritual level, The Lord called upon me to assist in this situation. I was in the position to be there for my bloodline and to show her the love she deserves. I believe that stepping to the plate as a grandmother/mother was automatic because of the love that I have for her. Everything else would fall into place as God intended.

ASCI: What advice would you have for informal kinship caregivers?

VG: I feel that if they’re in the system and they need help with the responsibility of their children, number one listen to the child [and]see what the child needs. Secondly, help yourself by checking the resources that are out there for your child. I searched to look for programs that can help assist me. When I found them, they worked and when I couldn’t find them, I worked. So basically, look, search, provide, you have to continue. You can’t stop. Even if one door shuts, continue to look through another door because I guarantee you, if you love your child, you’re going to do whatever it takes to provide.

ASCI also had the opportunity to speak with Tori (granddaughter of Victoria Giddens) briefly about her experience and advice for kinship youth in care.

Not being in the system, and having that family support was a good thing for me. My grandma worked with me through [my] trauma.

Tori (Granddaughter)

Tori’s Advice:

Overall, what I would tell people who are in the system is to learn how to build yourself rather than having other people build you, for them. [In the past] I had to learn who I was and who everybody else saw me as.

While helping to grow yourself may be hard, it does make it easier to cope. It took me a long time to forgive my mother. I always say you can always forgive, but you don’t have to forget because even though that trauma is still there, it’s better to just forgive and move on and realize that it’s in the past. What you need to see is your future.

ASCI would like to thank Victoria Giddens and her granddaughter Tori for sharing their journey.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of A Second Chance, Inc.

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