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CORRECTED: Grandparents disconnected

Corrects misinformation about Gorlick's family situation

Posted: September 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

It was hard enough losing her daughter to diabetes.  Losing contact with her grandson Cole afterwards was almost equally crushing for Corinne Cobbe.

Her former son-in-law recently decided that Cobbe could no longer see Cole, despite the duo having a very close relationship since his birth in 2005.

“I took care of Cole quite a bit, saw him regularly, sometimes up to five days a week when my daughter Amy was sick,” Cobbe said. “Now, I’m being aced out of my grandson’s life. For his and my sake, I feel like I have to do something.”

That something is attending the Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection support group once a month. With meetings held in at Heart of the Canyons Church in Canyon Country, the free group offers grandparents like Cobbe two hours of support and information.

  Facilitator Kathy Gorlick, of Valencia, believes in the mission of Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection.

“The biggest thing was not feeling alone,” Gorlick said. “My husband, Steve, does this with me, as well. It’s been very helpful to have a granddad there for men who come.”

In addition to support, Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection offer legal resources for its members to pursue visitation rights.

Founder Susan Hoffman was instrumental in establishing such rights in California after sponsoring Assembly Bill AB 2517 with support from then-California Assemblyman Van Tran in 2006. Then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill, which was unanimously passed by 120 legislators, into law on Aug. 22, 2006, and it became law the following January.

The law allows for grandparents to petition the court for visitation after a stepparent adoption. Hoffman was inspired to introduce the legislation when her son signed away parental rights to her grandson Jacob. Once Jacob’s mother remarried and her new husband adopted the boy, the family no longer allowed Hoffman to visit.

“After I licked my wounds, I got enough strength to seek an attorney and legal advice. I was told there was no law to protect me and I thought something was wrong with that picture,” Hoffman said. “Once people found out about the issue, I started getting calls from all over the United States, asking me to help them and pass a bill.”

After AB 2517 passed, Hoffman started support-group meetings throughout Southern California.  She applied for nonprofit status, and Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection was born.

“This is a growing social problem. Whenever I bring it up, whether I’m at the grocery store or pharmacy, someone always knows someone this is happening to,” she said. “Grandparents aren’t honored and respected the way they used to be. It’s a throwaway society now, everything’s disposable.”

Unfortunately for Hoffman, who authored “Grand Wishes,” a resource guide for grandparents, in 2008, her story didn’t have a happy ending. When Jacob’s mother and stepfather divorced, a divorce decree declared Hoffman couldn’t visit her grandson. Unless that decree was undone, the judge told Hoffman, she still had no legal right.

She hasn’t seen Jacob for more than six years. He is now 14.

“What kind of impact do you think that has on a child? This little boy is cut off from one whole side of his family,” Hoffman said, choking up. “While I can’t help myself, I can help others.”

Gorlick was recently reunited with her grandchild after a year and a half of estrangement with the stepfather, thanks to a legal agreement that now allows her visitation.

“I feel so fortunate. What I can see is that because Susan Hoffman created this bill, it’s allowed grandparents like me to be able to file and get a foot in the door,” she said. “Usually there’s no good reason when you have allowed a grandparent to bond with their grandchild to terminate that. The grandparent relationship is so important.”

Cobbe, who recently moved to Burbank from Valencia, agrees. July was the last time she spent time with her grandson and was told just last week, via a letter from Cole’s father, that she was no longer welcome in Cole’s life.

She is now considering legal recourse to be able to resume a relationship with Cole.

“My daughter died, which I think Cole interpreted as abandonment. Then I’m the second most important female in his life because I’ve been with Cole since birth, and I’m afraid he’s going to interpret that as abandonment,” Cobbe said, crying. “I have to try.”

Until the day comes when Cobbe can hold her grandson again, she finds solace with the members of Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection.

“This group is very helpful,” she said.

Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild connection meets the first Saturday of every month, Heart of the Canyons Church, 21618 Golden Triangle Road, #201, Canyon Country. 10 a.m. Free. For more information, call Kathy Gorlick at (661)-714-2787, email mduck03@sbcglobal.net or visit www.grandparentchildconnect.org

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