The Wilkensons had gone through some hard times in their family. Their oldest daughter was exposed to drugs while in high school and by the time she was a young adult was experimenting with harder and harder drugs. By this time, she had left the house and got into an unhealthy relationship with a man. After having three children together, the physical toll of the drugs and the emotional trauma from the abusive relationship became too much for their daughter to bear. She ran away and disappeared from the family leaving the abusive father to care for the children.

The Wilkensons refused to allow their grandchildren to endure this environment any longer. After obtaining custody of the oldest child, the father prevented them from seeing the other children any longer. At this point, they knew they need helped and called on the Family Strengthening Network to offer assistance.

After meeting with the Family Advocate (FA) and evaluating their story, the FA suggested getting Divisions Child and Family Services involved. Helping guide the grandparents through legal services and the court system, they obtained guardianship of all three grandchildren.

Now the real challenge began, how do grandparents become parents again and navigate all the systems for raising kids in today’s world, especially traumatized and abused children. The FA helped the family secure counseling through Robin’s Nest for the oldest since he had endure the brunt of the emotional trauma. Thankfully, he responded well to the counseling, slowly healing his wounds and engaging school and family with a healthy perspective.

Together with the advocate, the Wilkensons determined what the next steps were to create a healthy environment for the kids to grow and thrive in. They needed to register the children for school, get them doctor check-ups and up-to-date immunizations. The FA found out where they needed to go to sign-up for school and help them apply for NJ FamilyCare for the kids. With the FA’s assistance, the state expedited the application and all three children where approved for health coverage.

Since then, these children have had doctor and dental check-ups, got current on their immunization and are attending school. They are exploring ways to help the children recover from the pain their parents inflicted on them. While the challenge of raising three little ones is a job that worries the Wilkenson, the support and guidance their FA has given is enabling them to have the tools they need to succeed. The journey to recover from the past and thrive in the future will take time for these kids, but FSN will be there to walk with them each step of the way.