One of the first things that strikes you at a "Grandparents Raising Grandkids" support group is that these are people who would probably never even know each other if they weren't in similar predicaments. Around the room, you see folks from ages 40 to 80, at every income and education level, from tattooed laborers to executives in business suits. What they have in common is a sincere commitment to doing what is best for their grandchildren. Let's meet a few of them:

Jacqui batieJACQUI BATIE - Grandparent of Rachel, age 17
"When we got Rachel, it changed our lifestyle. I'm not saying it's not fun, because it has been fun. We've been in a big, big learning process-and that's okay too, because you're never too old to learn! But it has curtailed our just taking off spontaneously for a long weekend or something...since she has to be in school."

"She's really working hard and she wants to go someplace. We've been helping her to set goals and so far, she has achieved the goals that she has set."

"We have not gone after legal custody of Rachel because of her age. A lot of grandparents with younger grandchildren pursue that, especially when drugs and alcohol are in the picture. But that hasn't been our situation. I guess I feel that we're in a comfort zone right now."

jerry batieJERRY BATIE - Grandparent of Rachel, age 17
"The good thing is that she is just really a good girl and I enjoy being around her. She was told, for instance, that she couldn't go to college-but she CAN go to college, and she's excited about it."

(About going to a grandparents' support group) "I think you may be shy when you first go in there, but once you hear other people and some of the stories that they've got, then you know you're in the same environment as they are. And it's easier to talk that way... you can discuss your problems openly and nobody's going to be there to criticize you."

fred brewerFRED BREWER - Grandparent of Cheyenne (age 2), Amber (age 3), Kaitlyn (age 5), and Lakotah (age 6)
"You can love your children, and I do, I bend over backwards for my kids. But what it comes down to is, they're adults and they can fend for themselves. These (grandchildren) are innocent victims-they can't. So they're number one."

"We had a few times where we were told, 'They're MY kids, and you can't stop me from taking my kids,' and, 'If I want to, I'll just take 'em and leave, and you'll never see 'em.' We just finally got to the point where we were tired of being threatened. (Our attorney) informed us that even though the paper stated 'guardianship' on it, it really wasn't a guardianship, and in order for me to get things done that I needed to do for the kids' sake, I needed guardianship."

"There's been a few times one of us has had to get out of our bed, come out and sleep on the couch because it was so crowded in our bed….it's usually me, and I don't mind, because we know what they're going through and it's all part of the process of dealing with their emotions."

merla brewerMERLA BREWER - Grandparent of Cheyenne (age 2), Amber (age 3), Kaitlyn (age 5), and Lakotah (age 6)
"Life is definitely not boring! You wake up in the morning, you say a prayer. You go to bed at night, and you say a prayer. And you thank God for the day that you had with

betty lou donnellyBETTY LOU DONNELLEY - grandparent of Alex, age 15
It's really fun to have an association with all the other younger parents and keeping up on what's new and what's happening in child rearing.

There's not that much conflict. I mean, we love having him around. When he goes to spend the night at a friend's house, we miss him, we miss him.

I would lose a friend to save a child. I would even make a child of mine unhappy if I could make their child's life better.

bruce donnellyBRUCE DONNELLEY - grandparent of Alex, age 15
There was zero conversation about whether we should or should not. We both knew instantly that we wanted to do this.

I think it's important to be busy and be physically healthy, so take good care of yourself nutritionally and exercise.

linda drippsLINDA DRIPPS - Grandparent of Courtney (age 7), Brian (age 6), and Hailie (age 5)
"We don't just wake up one morning, bored, 'Oh, they took those kids someplace last night we didn't like, we're going to go get them and take them away.' That's not what happens. Usually it's a crisis situation, middle of the night, middle of the day. And we're not prepared. Y'know, if you're pregnant, you have 9 months to get ready. We don't. We have these kids and, all of a sudden, all their problems. And these kids come with a ton of baggage."

"The one thing we need to remember is we don't like what the adult child did, we don't like what the parent did-but those kids love their parents, and it doesn't matter what the parent has done to them."

"The kids are fine until they're about ten, and then their friends get cruel. That's another reason for a support group, because we do activities with the children, so that they can know they're not the only ones being raised by their grandparents. They need to know that, because sometimes they feel apart."

georgia mackleyGEORGIA MACKLEY - Grandparent of Marissa, age 5
"If I had advice for grandparents it would be, number one, get rid of the guilt. We did the best job that we could do, raising our children. I remember saying, 'Oh if I had it to do over again...' and then all of a sudden, you have it to do over again. You just do the best job that you can do."

al munozALEJO MUNOZ - Grandparent of Krystal, age 13
"We had six children and, although it is difficult to raise a child at our age, we look at it from the standpoint that we are raising another child of our own. We've given her as much as we can, and we are raising her as a daughter...Some of our grown children are okay with it, but sometimes they feel jealous over her, and say that we are giving Krystal 'better' treatment than what they receive. But if we wouldn't have gotten her, maybe we would never have known her or seen her. We wouldn't know anything about her."

maria munozMARIA MUNOZ - Grandparent of Krystal, age 13
"We have a legal guardianship document from the mother (who is incarcerated in California) but we've had a lot of problems with it here, being valid for things like school. A legal guardianship will give us rights for any legal purpose we may need. And we want to have our granddaughter, completely."

"Other grandparents should take care of their grandchildren as best they can. They are giving them the opportunity for a future. Because if it's not them, then who?"