V. I. GRANDPARENTS ARE OFTEN VITAL TO GRANDKIDS

Sept. 6, 2003 — On Sept. 7 grandparents in the territory can kick up their feet and enjoy Grandparents Day, a holiday set aside on the first Sunday after Labor Day to celebrate the contributions grandparents make to the lives of their grandchildren.
"It's nice to see them grow up again," said Donna M. Christensen, Delegate to Congress and grandmother of three-year-old Karida. "God knows why he made young people have kids:" Only they have the energy. Christensen recalls the energy it takes to get Karida ready for day care on occasions when her mother can't do it.
Grandparents in the territory often play a vital role in the raising and rearing of their grandchildren.
In 2001, 22 percent — or more than one in five — of Virgin Island children under the age of 18 lived with their grandparents or with guardians who are not their biological parents. In 2000 the figure was 18 percent, according to the "V.I. Kids Count Data Book," published by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.
The Kids Count/Population Reference Bureau Report on Census 2000, "A First Look at Children in the U.S. Virgin Islands," published in 2002, measured the extent to which grandparents provided care to their grandchildren. In the Virgin Islands, 4,802 grandparents lived with their grandchildren in the year 2000, and more than half (51 percent) reported that they were responsible for child-care. Nationally, 42 percent of grandparents who lived with their grandchildren reported being responsible for child-care, the Kids Count report said.
Claire Roker is one of the grandparents that have taken up the challenge to continue raising two of her four granddaughters, although her situation is not unique. Roker's mother and aunt helped to raise her daughters.
"Our household has been dominated by women," Roker said with a chuckle. Her oldest grandchild, Chystine, is 24 years old and is a nurse at the Juan Luis hospital on St. Croix, while 18-year-old Shawna works at Planning and Natural Resources Department.
Currently Roker, who is a single mom, actively participates in the day-to-day lives of eight-year-old Brianna, and three-year-old Tya, whom she drops to school every day. After school they go the home of Delta M. Dorsch, Roker's aunt, to do homework. There is no television until the homework and chores have been completed; then they can watch television or read. On the weekends they take a trip to the beach.
"I enjoy being with my girls and it is a rewarding pleasure to see them grow and to see the different personalities from the first to the last," said Roker. The three-year-old is very independent and can already tie her shoes while the eight-year-old can cook her own eggs, Roker explains.
"It takes a great deal of understanding" to deal with children, but "I don't think you should push them away."
Similarly, Mark Corniella remembers his grandmother Adella Lettsome taking the time to make sure he got to the practices for karate and baseball.
Although Corniella's mother did not move out of her mother's house until he was 16, it was his grandmother Lettsome that made the late night runs to the hospital when he got sick and looked to his education.
"My grandmother has always been there for me from the beginning," said Corniella.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Grandparents Day. The idea originated with Marian McQuade, a housewife in Fayette County, W. Va. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes, according to the official National Grandparents Day Web site. McQuade also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed that the day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day.
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