Garleah Spicer is a 67-year-old grandmother who has raised Vincent since he was about 2 years old. Vincent is an autistic teen who has severe trauma and is heavily medicated. Garleah has been Vincent’s only mother figure as she helped his father care for him when they moved to Arizona. After Vincent’s father kicked Garleah out of his home, she moved to the city to find an affordable place to live.
Within just 3 months of her departure, Vincent’s father turned his son over to the court, and Vincent spent time in multiple therapeutic group homes and care centers.
“He never was any different from other kids to me,” Garleah said when reminiscing about the past.
Vincent attended public school when he was a child and attended Occupational Therapy sessions, but was still in regular classrooms learning to the best of his ability. Due to his trauma, he is only working at a 4th-grade level. Vincent started visits with Garleah again last October and those turned from daily visits to weekend visits. He was then placed back into a therapeutic group home because of issues with medication. He returned to her in January where Garleah fought to gain custody of her grandson. Garleah regularly takes him to grief counseling once a week to help him recover. He also goes to therapy and they are searching for a mentor to help him with day-to-day life.
Garleah joined AzCA’s Arizona Kinship Support Services (AKSS) last year, around the time Vincent was taken from her and placed into a group home. She noticed the kinship group included ‘grandmas who were raising kids and uncles who raised their nephews’. She felt comfort in the program, which is almost like a support group and a therapy session for the grandparents and other kinship caregivers. It was awkward for Garleah at first because she was struggling with losing Vincent and felt alone. Members of the group understand each other, shed tears together, and embrace each other in a no-judgment zone.
“I don’t have a lot of friends because we usually don’t have a lot in common, but the group really has a lot of comradery… Thank God for the grandmas,” Garleah said of the Kinship Program that AzCA provides for guardians.
Garleah also joined our Trauma Informed Care classes which she said are “awesome. It hits right on how to deal with triggers and trauma. It puts you into the child’s head and how they are thinking. It is very beneficial.” The TIC classes put the guardians into the child’s mindset. Unfortunately, Garleah was split between appointments and finding a place to move so she wasn’t able to finish all the classes. She hopes to be back in the classroom again very soon. She was always doing the class work and participating so that she could learn the most for her grandson.
“My main priority is my grandson. I plan on getting back into the classes as soon as I get moved,” said Garleah on why the classes are so important to her.
Garleah plans on adopting Vincent at the end of the month. Vincent has been with Garleah since January and hasn’t had a crisis call all year. Garleah has noticed him slowly regaining himself and getting better. Vincent is taking online classes to get his education and has plans on returning to an in-person school when it is less overwhelmed by change.
“At least through all the trauma, Vincent never forgot how to love, and never learned how to hate,” says Garleah. She continued “He is braver and stronger than anyone I know.”
Vincent has been swimming all summer long, he loves to watch movies, and he and Garleah take some time at the end of the day to talk about everything they’ve done. They’ve gone hiking, and to the zoo, and with the weather cooling down he will get to ride his bike more and more. They’re both excited about the adventures they’ll get to have now.
“It’s awesome that Vincent is sleeping in his bed across the hall from me every night and wakes up with me every day,” said a teary-eyed Grandma as her grandson sat next to her after finishing his online schooling for the day.