Woman raising her 4 disabled grandchildren and seeks to help - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Woman raising her 4 disabled grandchildren and seeks to help others

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Only on FOX, Deborah Dickerson always figured she'd be surrounded by grandkids, just not full time, twenty four seven and for the foreseeable future.

"I knew the children's mother was on drugs and was out there on the streets," explains Deborah.

She did what her faith and her heart demanded.

She took them in.

"Okay, what are you going to do with it? Turn your head ? N. Look at them," she says with a wise smile.

And they are a sight to see.

Kaleb, Joshua, Serine and Trinity. Beautiful yes, but each burdened, through no fault of their own.

"The ultimate challenge is to find out that each and everyone of them has a disability," said Deborah.

She was a single ill-equipped grandparent, solely responsible for three children with raging attention deficit and a fourth, little Trinity, impaired by autism and bi-polar disorder.

They call her "Granny" and the exhaustion and constant stress of their care nearly killed her .

"The ultimate moment was April of two years ago when I had a heart attack and I thought, I can't do it anymore. It's too much, but some how you find yourself. You get some rest and you get back in there again," Deborah, who retired from the Harris County Hospital District.

As much out of necessity as desire, Deborah Dickerson was compelled to do things differently.

For five lives - it would be a turning point.

"That was my biggest thing. I had to let go of my pride. I had to let go of my pride to tell people I was in trouble, that I didn't know what to do with these little babies," she explained.

With the help of advocates and caregivers, Deborah and her grand kids have in the years since racked up a pretty impressive winning streak.

Kaleb, Joshua and Serene have earned regular slots on the honor roll. Trinity too has made steady progress.

They are a family, bound tightly by a grandmother's toughness and sustaining love.

"I like her braveness, her courage because whatever we go, through she'll go through it too," said 11 year-old Kaleb.

With firm plans to be a scientist he is fiercely proud of his Granny.

"When its very important, she'll just jump in and save us," said Kaleb.

Deborah says it was during the time of her deepest despair that she decided to cut a "deal".

"I told God that if he would help me with my children that I would spend the rest of my life helping other grandparents," said Deborah.

And boy do they need it.

In Texas alone more than a half million children are being raised by their grandparents. Many support their expanded households on a fixed income and suffer declining health. Few are fully prepared to navigate the complexities of 21st century parenting, especially when the grandchild is challenged with a disability and will depend heavily on public schooling.

"Grandparents have no network. Their network is other grandparents who don't how the schools work right now," said Loretta Zayas Revai, a licensed school psychologist and advocate for children with special needs.

"Grandparents are sitting ducks. They are even less informed than parents because what they know of an education was three generations ago," said Zayas Revai.

It's why you will find Deborah Dickerson reaching out to others. Keeping her "Godly" deal with an effort she calls Grandparent Support Group.

"I guarantee you some grandparent is giving up hope, because she don't or they don't know what to do," she says at meeting of grandparents.

Keeping her Godly deal with an effort she calls "grandparent support group". On her "grandfamily" table equal measures of counsel, resource and confidence.

"This is a different ball game here. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I was ready for help and the help started coming," said Deborah to the gathering of a half dozen elderly attendees.

Call it the welcome comfort of company for grandparents bravely choosing to give all they've got, while they've still got it to give.

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