VENICE -  Opioids, heroin and mental illness are part of the reasons cited by some of these grandparents as to why they are raising their grandchildren on their own. The message is loud and clear.

"I don’t know who else to turn to but there are so many of us in the same shoes and we definitely need help," said group organizer ZsaZsa Karajman.
One by one they passionately share personal stories in front of Florida House of Representative’s James Buchanan, a meeting many are happy to see happen. Karajman is a long-term member of Children's First “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” support group.
“Every month when we have a meeting the numbers are more and more. I see people who are in their early 40’s and they’re acquiring a grandchild," said Karajman.
Caregivers say problems with the Department of Children and Families, fighting with the state for benefits and rights only add to their struggles. 


“Each case is so different but we’re all the same. We’re just looking for financial help and some support. And they do offer that at DCF, the first few years we had a lot of free stuff but as soon as we adopted them a lot of that was gone," said grandparent Cyndee Pack.
Representative Buchanan whose districts include Venice, Englewood and North Port, promised the group made up of mostly grandparents, to help them get to the bottom of their issues. Buchanan referenced recently passed house bill 1209 which helps caregivers resolves problems with the department of children and families multiple times. “You want people who have ties to their kids to be able to give more into the system and that’s exactly what this piece of legislation does," said Rep. Buchanan.
Many of these primary caregivers echo sentiments of isolation.
 “I had no idea what to do with them it was overwhelming really," said Pack.