A two-year-old boy with wild blond hair screams in the middle of a parking lot when his mother tries to pick him up.
“No I wanna stay with grandma and sissy! Please don’t make me go with you!” he screams with tears running down his face. His two sisters with matching blonde hair cry and beg their mother to let him stay. His grandmother watches from a few feet away and knows she can’t do much about it. She has custody of two of her daughter’s children but not the youngest boy.
According to the United States Census, there were 6.6 million children living with a grandparent in 2008. 482,000 of these grandparents have incomes below the poverty line. Lorrie and Lee Casto are part of that statistic. They are raising their daughter Amber’s three children, Sonya, Paige, and Seth. Sonya is 9-years-old, Paige is 4 and Seth is 2.
Sonya, Lorrie’s oldest granddaughter, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after her mother’s boyfriend beat and emotionally abused her for years. “He beat her so hard one day that his class ring was stamped into her face for a week,” Lorrie said. “I knew I had to get those kids away from her.”
Lorrie is currently working on taking her daughter to court to get custody of her youngest grandson, Seth. Amber doesn’t want to let Seth go and often takes him away from his sisters and grandparents for weeks at a time. He comes back to Lorrie filthy but ecstatic to be back with his grandparents and sisters, where he knows he will be taken care of and safe.
“I would do it again for the kids to make sure they are safe,” Lorrie says. “They mean the world to me.”
This reality of grandparents raising their grandchildren is an increasing trend in America. With more parents being involved with drugs, going to prison, and being unfit to raise their children, grandparents are left to look after the kids.
This is an important issue to document because many grandparents have to sacrifice their golden years, medication, and life savings to be parents again. With almost no funding offered, many grandparents have to go back to work at minimum wage jobs to support their families.
Funding from the Fotovisura Student Grant would allow me to continue documenting kinship care across Ohio. The funds would be allocated towards mileage to and from shoots with local families, and would enable to me spend a few long weekends photographing an African-American family I have been in touch with in Cincinnati, Ohio, a 350 mile round trip. Remaining funds will be allocated towards digital backup and any incidental meals/motel rooms necessary while I work on this project.