New school schedule weighing heavily on caregivers with limited resources

Posted at 5:09 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 19:26:38-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Cora Riley has long been out of school but she is having to face a big learning curve.

The 55-year-old grandmother in Hermitage is the caregiver for her 12 and 13-year-old granddaughters. The role alone is tough enough but coordinating remote learning is presenting more challenges. One of the girls is still dealing with school-issued laptop and connectivity issues about three weeks after school started.

"It's very frustrating," the grandchild said.

Riley admits at her age troubleshooting and navigating the technology has been far from easy outside of just trying to help them with their assignments.

"It's like I'm raising my children all over again," Riley told NewsChannel 5. "I haven't been in school in years so trying to help them figure it out is hard because I don't know what I'm doing either, and it can be overwhelming."

Like many caregivers who have taken on the role, money is tight. Riley has not been able to work because of her disability, which can be tricky trying to focus on her health and the needs of her children full-time. She said many caregivers face more difficulties because of limited resources including finances.

"I have to be strong and take it one day at a time. When you get older it's even harder especially with health problems, but we do what we got to do because we love these kids," she said.

Riley is part of the Davidson County Relative Caregiver Program with Family & Children's Service. More than 300 children are in 200 relative caregiver homes in the city.

FCS CEO Michael McSurdy said the point of the program is to keep children out of the welfare system by providing a variety of services such as support groups and financial assistance. Family members who take on the parenting role may not have the means and resources. This semester is making everything harder from internet problems to added stress, according to McSurdy.

"Some families just aren't prepared to play that homeschooling role. And then there are expenses that people just aren't prepared for," he explained.

His organization has recently received additional help from the Department of Children's Services with $30,000 in additional funding and up to $15,000 from other entities for the Relative Care Program.

DCS said it does not have oversight and the caregiver family does not receive a monthly stipend through the program. The program is useful when children are abandoned, both parents have died, a parent is behind bars or a child is being abused or neglected.

The state contracts with agencies in each of the 12 regions in the state including Davidson County.