Great Grandma learns she is not alone in raising three great-grandchildren!

February 22, 2022


Dan Shufelt

It’s a story I’ve written many times over my career as the CEO of a foster care support organization.  Relatives, most often grandparents, in a moment find themselves appointed as the responsible caregiver for multiple little ones.  As a grandparent myself, I know the unique bond created with grandchildren.  I love spending time playing, spoiling and teaching my grandchildren.  But at this stage of my life, would I want to have 24/7 responsibility for every phase of their lives?  My answer is most definitely not!

Grandparents who are called upon to step in and parent again face enormous hurdles – emotionally, financially and physically.  In the past I’ve opened doors and introduced resources to ease their burdens.  So it was no coincidence that when Laura walked into Harvest Compassion Center, I was volunteering in the food pantry.  The greeters learned that she was in need of food, clothing, diapers and more for her family, which suddenly included three great-grandchildren, all under the age of two.  Through her tears and emotions, she told of the hardships she was facing and a fellow team member asked if I had any knowledge of resources she could tap into to meet some of her needs.

Arizona has an array of wonderful organizations and people that support the foster community.  In Laura’s case, she was in need of immediate help with those basic needs for three babies – food, clothing and diapers that Harvest assisted with.  But changing your life in a moment by adding little ones is so incredibly complicated.  What about help navigating the foster system, getting help with day care, food stamps and other matters?  The needs are great…

I introduced Laura to Victoria Gray, the founder of Grey Nickel, Inc. a nonprofit that exists to provide support to kinship providers throughout Maricopa County state.  Victoria knows the ropes – she has fostered 41, and adopted her SEVEN grandchildren!  She brings her life experiences and her years of working in the foster community into play to help folks like Laura. 

Grey Nickel visits the family to learn of needs and how they can fill holes.  They make phone calls and set appointments, moving along the process to receive financial support payments.  As their website states, the first thing on the minds of relatives like Laura is filling those basic needs of food, beds and clothing.  Many families use their savings and limited resources, oftentimes placing themselves in debt to provide the formula, diapers and more.

Kinship placement should not be a financial hardship, and family helping family should be supported, not punished.  Grey Nickel’s mission is to help support kinship families that provide a safe and stable home for children that have been removed from their parents.

Victoria’s first call to Laura was interrupted by a crying baby, something that will be part of this great- grandmother’s life for a while to come – 9-week-old twins and a 15-month-old baby will make a lot of noise and demand a lot of attention.  The support that she and her team will provide can preserve sanity and alleviate a bit of the strain for this challenged lady, hopefully helping to dry some of the tears and anxiety she exhibited in the lobby the day I met her. 

I am so grateful to Victoria for her willingness to jump in.  Her note to Laura expressed that all she asks for is a good day and time to meet to set up a plan, something desperately needed when you become an instant MOM to three babies.  Just knowing that she is not alone and has an ally to help makes all the difference.

Grey Nickel, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization and relies on charitable contributions to continue their services.  You can learn more and donate to support their work by visiting

Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grant maker for many years.

If you enjoy learning of caring people and the amazing work they devote their energy to advance, be sure to sign up for Dan’s blog (see sign-up form below).

1 Comment

  1. Jenny Cook

    What a great article! Victoria is such an amazing gift to our community. She has a special ability to alleviate stress and fear by just being in her presence. Her knowledge in this field is unmatched and we know when we refer families to her they will be in good hands. Thank you for highlighting her organization and for reminding us that while diapers and food and formula are vital, so is the person to person connection that Grey Nickel provides.

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