CYNTHIA McFADDEN REPORTS ON A HIDDEN EPIDEMIC: A GENERATION OF FORGOTTEN CHILDREN LEFT TO BE RAISED BY THEIR GRANDPARENTS, ON ABC NEWS' "PRIMETIME LIVE," THURSDAY, MAY 26
They are a generation of children whose parents have essentially vanished, lost to drug abuse, incarceration, mental illness and other social problems. Filling the void for an estimated 4.5 million of these American kids are their grandparents, often forced into duty armed with few resources beyond their wisdom and devotion. In a powerful hour-long report, "Primetime Live" explores the stories of four of these families living in Newark, New Jersey, a city that has one of the nation's highest concentrations of youth being reared by grandparents -- many in poverty and with little outside help. For nearly four years, "Primetime" has followed these families' struggles. Cynthia McFadden talks with the children about their parents' absence, and speaks with the grandmothers about their remarkable efforts and why they think this troubling cycle of abandonment and broken lives continues. "Primetime Live" airs THURSDAY, MAY 26 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
While this phenomenon is all too common throughout the country, across racial lines and all socio-economic strata, Newark offers perhaps the starkest example -- nearly ten percent of the city's children are being raised by grandparents. Among them is eight-year-old Armani who, along with five other kids, is being cared for by her 85-year-old great, great grandmother, Okella Foster. Armani was abandoned by her mother and father and given to Foster when she was just ten months old. She is selectively mute and has not spoken for three years outside of her home. Eleven-year-old Rayvaughn is being raised by his grandmother, Rose, who refuses to even hug him, probably as a result of her own troubled childhood. She worries so much about losing her grandson to the streets that she refuses to let him play outside. Ayesha and brother Michael live secretly with their grandmother, Martha Spencer, because her elderly home for the disabled does not allow children. They long for a place where they can live in the open. Ayesha's and Michael's mother is a drug addict who drifts in an out of their lives, providing them with little more than heartbreak.
McFadden reports that grandparents raising their grandchildren typically do not receive the amount of government funds provided to foster parents. Yet it seems many would rather struggle to support their kin than see them sent to foster homes. In Newark, McFadden finds a close-knit group of grandmothers who have formed a unique support system of their own, with assistance from the local Salvation Army. The group is thrown into turmoil, however, when its youngest member - a grandmother caring for ten grandchildren - faces a sudden health crisis, and her son must decide whether he is willing to take on the enormous responsibility she has borne for years.
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DIANE SAWYER, CHRIS CUOMO, CYNTHIA McFADDEN and JOHN QUIQONES are the anchors of "Primetime Live." DAVID SLOAN is the executive producer.