According to Pew Trust, in 2015, 2.9 million children in the United States “were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care,” and “the number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren is going up…” due to various contributing factors.* 80,000 grandparents in Pennsylvania, alone, are raising their grandchildren. Haley, a high school freshman in Hersey, PA, is among them. In this deeply personal and insightful essay, she reflects on being raised by her “grandfamily”.

By Haley, Freshman, Milton Hershey School – Growing up, I didn’t have steady family support but my grandparents were always there.

When my grandparents stepped up to the plate to fill the parent role in my life, it was an amazing thing. It turned my life around.

My life before enrolling at Milton Hershey School was kind of rough. I was almost on the verge of going into foster care. My dad was in and out of my life, and I was living with my mom who was a single parent. My dad wasn’t the average father who is always there for Christmas and special family occasions. I’m not going to lie, I do miss my dad. My mom was also experiencing her own problems in her life so my grandparents took my brother and I in as their own.

I am very appreciative for my grandparents and for all their support to help me develop into a wonderful young lady. Honestly, I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for them.

For grandparents who are involved in raising your grandchildren, you have done an amazing thing.

My grandparents have a very important role in my life. My Nan and Pap mean the world to me, and we have a connection and bond that is unbreakable. They have been there through the ups and downs of my life, and they have helped me through thick and thin. My grandmother, Nan, and I work at the same place when I’m home on breaks. My grandfather is my best friend and calls me almost every day. They are always checking on how I’m doing in school and in my after-school activities.

My grandparents have also influenced my career goals. When I get older, I would like to become a nurse. I’d like to be a nurse who works with the elderly and this is because of my grandparents’ influence. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse since I was little, but when I was younger, I wanted to work with babies. Now, I would love to work with the elderly. They have inspired me to work with people their age because they have done so much for me and this is a way I could give back to them.

For grandparents who are involved in raising your grandchildren, you have done an amazing thing. I know I can never repay my grandparents for all they have given me, but I can try by thanking them, giving back to them when I graduate, and showing them I am going to succeed in life and do great things.

*Editor’s Note: Experts attribute the continuing upward trend of grandparents raising their grandchildren in the U.S. to a number of factors: “a temporary change in circumstance for the parents, such as military deployment or joblessness, or something more lasting and terrible: mental illness, divorce, incarceration, death,” or substance abuse/drug addiction, especially to opioids.

Lead photo of Haley and her grandmother courtesy of Milton Hershey School.