Gary Garrison and his partner Sara have been raising two grandchildren for
two years. They are Josh, 8, and Lily, 5, the children of Sara’s son.
Gary was Editor of Alberta Hansard (the record of Alberta’s Legislature’s debates) for 15 years, has a Ph.D. in English, has taught English at the post secondary level, and for nine years coordinated a prison visitation program for the Mennonite
Central Committee Alberta. He has written a book about his prison experiences which he expects to be published next year. He has published numerous nonfiction articles and poems and is active in Edmonton’s literary community.
Interview questions for grandparent caregivers for new grands book I Am My Grandmother’s Son a creative nonfiction book being written by Gary Garrison of Edmonton, Alberta
Purpose of the book: to give people some experience with issues involved in kin care and a better understanding of the people who are dedicating their lives to bringing up vulnerable children.
The audience would include: caregivers, social workers, administrators, policymakers, and the general public,
people who aren’t aware of the issues and the sacrifices because they do not have direct involvement in the subject. The
foundation of the book would be oral history: people talking about their personal experiences so the reader can get a broad and deep anecdotal perspective on what kincare is like and how
it differs from foster care. These oral history pieces would be presented in the style of a documentary film: a narrator commenting on the context of each person’s experience, what the bigger picture looks like, all the challenges, joys, heartache, and possibilities involved in doing kincare and supporting caregivers.
1. How many grandchildren are you caring for now and how old are they?
What are the circumstances under which you took on the responsibility of caring for them? Do you receive any government help, financial or otherwise in caring for your grandchild(ren)? Do you have to deal with government interference in caring for your grandchild(ren)?
2. What was the decision process you went through when you decided to take on the responsibility for your grandchild(ren)? What were the alternatives? Have there been days when you wished you had made a different choice? If so, how would you describe the circumstances of that regret?
3. How long have you been caring for your grandchildren? How would you describe the impact on your life of this responsibility? What impact has this responsibility had on your financial viability, your relationships, your freedom, your health, your ability to retire?
4. How would you describe your relationship with the children’s biological parents? What are the prospects of the biological parents taking on more responsibility for raising the children?
How do you deal with the emotions involved in relating to your own
children (or your partner’s children) and managing their contact with their children, who are in your care?
5. What are some of the difficulties you have faced and are faced with now in raising your grandchildren? Are there or have their been emotional or physical scars you’ve had to work
through with your grandchildren, things such as FASD (fetal alcohol syndrome disorder), ODD (oppositional defiance
disorder), ADD (attention deficit disorder), attachment disorder,
abandonment trauma, or other issues? What help have you been able to get from support groups, government agencies,
schools, churches, private counseling, etc., to help you deal with these challenges? Have you been able to find sources of financial aid for this?
6. How has having responsibility for your grandchildren improved your life? What are the experiences you’ve enjoyed with your grandchildren that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
Would your grandchildren be willing to talk with me about what the
experience has been like for them?
7. What do you do in raising your grandchildren that is different from what you did in raising your own children?
How would you describe the differences between your childrearing practices now compared with when you did
it the first time?
8. If you were the minister responsible for social services in your
province, what would you do to fix what’s wrong with the system? If you were the Premier, what would you do to make things better for the children at risk and for their families? If you were God and had the power to do anything at all for the children of the world (including going back in time and changing some of the past), what would you do?
9. Would you be able to suggest other people I could talk to to further this project and to suggest how I might be able to contact them, given confidentiality rules? Can you suggest some
sources for me to go to for statistical, financial, political information re kincare and foster care? Some academic
experts in the field, lawyers, or
retired social workers?
If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact
Gary Garrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or