Formerly a city planner and a public-school educator,
Ed now works full time registering voters and supporting his other political interests.
Introduction by Dr. Gramma Karen: I got to know Ed through our work together registering voters. I wanted to interview Ed because he has made two life choices that I think will be of interest.
Life Choice #1
Dr. Gramma Karen: Ed, first, let’s talk about your decision to work full time on registering voters. That is a huge commitment! You gave up a salaried job to do volunteer work exclusively. How did this come about?
Edward Leuchs: Long story short, I was so upset by the outcome of the 2016 presidential race that I thought I was going mad. I was so stressed out and irrational that my husband took to monitoring the news on TV — he would turn off the news if it had anything to do with the president. I was totally crazed.
Finally, he sat me down and said that my behavior was unacceptable and couldn’t continue. He suggested that I take all my frustration and negative emotions and re-channel them into some positive action that I could feel good about. I knew he was right, and it was at that point that I decided to work on voter registration full time.
Karen: I assume this decision to do voter registration full time came with some financial and relationship implications, as, for openers, you would be forfeiting income.
Ed: True, but my husband was 100 percent behind my decision for a several reasons. First, between our combined retirement incomes, we were financially okay. Second, in terms of our relationship, he wanted me to be doing something positive that I wanted to be doing because my earlier behavior after the 2016 presidential election was destabilizing our home life. Third, he and I were politically aligned: he shared my concerns, and he believed in the value of what I was doing.
Karen: So, how would you summarize the benefits of focusing full time on voter registration?
Ed: There are several benefits. Voter registration:
- Helped me get out of an emotionally destructive mode into a constructive one.
- Supported my belief in the power of the ballot box.
- Forced me to keep up to date on important issues in order to answer questions raised by prospective voters.
- Most important, helped me to be a good role model for my granddaughter: I wanted to help her learn about civil action and patriotism.
Life Choice #2
Karen: This brings us to your role as a grandfather, another area I think will be of interest to my readers. You are among the 2.7 million grandparents nationwide who are raising grandchildren. (Statistics provided by AARP and Grandfamilies.org.)
As you explained to me, you are your granddaughter’s “legal custodial grandfather,” which means “…you are responsible for supporting and providing care for the child. In certain states, a child’s parents may still retain some of their rights — even if you have physical custody. A parent can voluntarily relinquish custody of a child to you through a written legal agreement, or it can be formally ordered by the court.”
(The other two formal legal relationships with a child, besides custody, include guardianship and adoption.)
Ed: Yes, I became legal custodial grandfather for my granddaughter when she nine-years-old; she is currently 13 years-old.
Karen: Please share whatever you can about that process that respects your granddaughter’s privacy.
Ed: Like many grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, I become a care provider out of necessity. It should be noted that the main reasons grandparents become care providers usually result from parents’ substance abuse and addiction, incarceration, child abuse and neglect, and economic factors.
My granddaughter knows full well the circumstances that resulted in her living with me and my husband. I am happy to report that she now is in contact with her parents. She talks with her dad on the phone and she has visitation with her mother.
Karen: What might you say to other grandparents who may be questioning their grandchildren’s parents’ abilities to provide a safe and stable environment for their grandchildren?
Ed: I would say first and foremost to do whatever it takes to get custody of grandchildren who are at risk. Despite what they might say, parents dealing with addictions cannot be trusted to make decisions that are in the best interests of their children. If thinking about custody, guardianship, or adoption, grandparents need a well-thought-out plan. Find resources, such as child welfare agencies, lawyers, children’s advocates.
Karen: If I may interject, Ed, I think you can attest to the fact that navigating the court system to get legal custody, or guardianship, or to adopt a grandchild, can be challenging, as the courts favor children remaining with their parents. , , .
Ed: Yes, the process can be lengthy and expensive, but in my case, I was fortunate to have one police officer in particular help me find the right resources I needed at the right time.
Karen: Besides taking advantage of various resources, what other advice might you have for grandparents concerned with their grandchildren’s safety and well-being.
Ed: I would suggest checking out working with therapists and / or joining support groups, such as Al-Anon and Alateen (mutual support program for adults and young people, respectively, whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking), or addiction recovery centers.
I also suggest checking out online and in-person support groups for grandparents. I joined one and I have found it encouraging to know I am not alone in my role as legal custodial grandparent.
Karen: Many thanks, Ed, for sharing your experiences and advice. I know my readers join me in wishing you, your husband, your granddaughter, and other members of your family good health, success, and happiness.
Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
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