When her stepdaughter was younger, Lauren Gould would read out loud and tailor books that were written for children of divorce to better match their family dynamic. But as the young girl learned to read, those impromptu edits no longer worked.
Inspired by her experience, an idea dawned on the 34-year-old Bradenton woman.
“I can write a book for her and other kids who switch houses who don’t have that common marriage beginning,” Gould said.
Books, she says, that weren’t on the market.
After some encouragement from another children’s book author, Gould’s series spawned in the fall of 2017. Since then, she’s published two books, “When Kids Switch Houses” in August 2018 and her award-winning “When Kids Have Grandparents as Parents” in October 2018.
“Both are still very normal lives and the idea is to teach kids that is still normal and that it’s OK to have a family like that, there’s nothing wrong with it,” said Gould, who works in the Manatee County clerk’s office.
Gould was surprised to learn “When Kids Have Grandparents as Parents” won gold in the 2019 Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Book Award for the nonfiction-children category.
“It was instant gratification on a long road. Being able to go back all these years and all the research and everything finally coming to light and getting recognized. And knowing that it’s helping kids and people are reading my books, it’s just such an accomplishment. I was just blown away and very thankful for that opportunity,” Gould said.
Writing is also an outlet for the difficult cases Gould juggles as a case manager for the Child Support Program in the Manatee County Clerk and Comptroller’s Office.
The award-winning book highlights a dynamic many Florida families deal with.
Throughout Florida, there were 1,348 children removed from their homes in May, Florida Department of Children and Families data shows.
Just in Manatee County, 42 children were removed from their homes that same month. Reasons included a caretaker’s inability to cope, domestic violence, a parent’s drug abuse, inadequate housing and inadequate supervision.
More than 430 children were removed from their homes in Manatee County in all of 2018. There have been 160 children in the county who entered out-of-home care between Jan. 1 and May 31. Not all are placed with grandparents., but some are.
“Working in the judicial system, I see the impact that our town goes through with kids. It has really helped give me more ideas. With the second book (“When Kids Have Grandparents as Parents”) it started with my nephew and my mom having custody of him but seeing kids come in all the time, teaching them their life is still normal,” Gould said.
Nancy Darr has experienced it first-hand and she’s now trying to help others as they navigate the change in their lives.
Darr and her husband raised their two grandsons, who are now adults. The couple adopted the boys in 1994, but Darr’s husband died a year later, leaving her to raise the two boys alone.
“It’s like you’re being a parent a second time around,” Darr said.
More than 20 years ago, Darr organized the Grandparents as Parents support group, in a partnership with Manatee County Children’s Services, for grandparents raising their grandchildren. The group is still going strong and attendance she said can range between 75 to 100 people. They meet on the third Saturday of the month at Hope Lutheran Church for a light lunch and some conversation.
“It’s the love for these children. They want to keep them out of the system and there’s so many kids now in foster homes. If (the grandparents) can take them, why put more in there,” Darr said.
The group gives grandparents a chance to talk to each other and learn from presenters brought in to the meetings. There’s also a warmline that’s available for grandparents to call for additional support outside of the group meetings.
“Hats off to these grandparents. But not just them, there’s caregivers, uncles and aunts taking these children in to give them a home and raise them,” Darr said.
Gould hopes to release two more books — her next is planned for October —but she said there’s about 20 more titles she wants to pen. The books are mostly geared toward children in first through fifth grades.
For each topic, she’ interviews children, parents and their families to see how the topic at hand impacts them and tries to write through their perspective.
“I want to write until I run out of ideas and topics,” Gould said.
Grandparents as Parents support group
Meets every third Saturday at the Hope Lutheran Church on 26th Street West in Bradenton
A light lunch is provided to grandparents and children for free
Child supervision is provided during the luncheon
Local warmline provides a listening ear, kinship information, and referrals for the resources within Manatee County: 941-756-8197
“When Kids” series
The books in Lauren Gould’s “When Kids” series are available for purchase on her website, WhenKidsSeries.com, Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble.