WKYT - Harlan - Headlines

Grandparents form group to fight for custody rights

By: Tanner Hesterberg Email
By: Tanner Hesterberg Email

Several grandparents met Thursday in Harlan County to discuss ways to improve legal protections for people who raise their grandchildren.

The group is called "Full Hearts, Empty Arms."

"I'm scared to death that any day something will happen where they'll serve papers on us saying to come for a custody hearing," said Gene Edward Dean.

Dean said he has raised his eight-year-old grandson for most of the child's life.

"If I lose that boy in my life they might as well take me to a morgue because that will absolutely kill me," he said.

That is why grandparents think the court system should be more favorable to them when it comes to custody issues.

"These grandparents are taking on an awesome responsibility," said Theresa Osborne, the group's organizer. "They're dong a wonderful thing and they need to be recognized in the legal system.

"They're the ones that maybe in some situations have been taking care of these kids for years."

Dean said losing his three granddaughters in a custody battle was tough.

"I've cried a lot of tears wanting to see them," he said.

Harlan County School officials estimated in some of their schools, up to 25 percent of students are raised by their grandparents.

Osborne hopes to lobby lawmakers to help the group's cause.

For more information, call (606)-558-5675.

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