Keisha Scott rises each morning before dawn to begin her long day.
At 5:30 a.m., she has three grandkids to get up for school, another two to feed and clothe, and a 3-month-old with a diaper to change and a bottle to be warmed. She barely has time to dress herself before she is out the door, with three kids in tow, squeezing them in her 2001 two-door Acura before picking up a third grandchild and heading to Lauderhill Paul Turner Elementary School where she works in the cafeteria.
At 6:30 a.m., she slips into her apron and begins her workday, dishing out breakfast and then lunch before going home about 3 p.m. and relieving her daughter, who stays with the youngest children during the day and works at night.
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Scott’s afternoons and evenings are even more trying: driving her daughter to work, picking up kids from daycare, aftercare and the Boys & Girls Clubs (she used to have a van, but it broke down so sometimes she has to make two trips in her little car to pick up all the kids), making dinner, feeding the baby, bathing the kids.
Scott, 41, is raising her children’s children. She is not alone.
Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are bringing up their grandchildren, and in Broward County, one-fifth of those children live in families that fall below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census. The numbers are staggering, says Brian Quail, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County — the fifth-largest Boys and Girls Club in the country.
“There are so many stories of families who are struggling and this is one that tugs at your heartstrings,” Quail said.
Scott’s son was shot and killed in Fort Lauderdale two years ago, and she is now raising five of her grandchildren, including her son’s daughter, Nadahlia, 12, and her half-brother, Demari, who is 8. She also has four other grandchildren who live with her. She helps support them for her daughters, who do not earn enough money to raise them alone.
“My day never ends, from morning until night,” said Scott, who takes home $200 a week. After paying rent and buying groceries, there is little left at the end of the month for things that most families take for granted, like sitting around the living room, watching TV. The family has only one sofa, and a small television — but they have no cable or antenna. The kids take turns watching the same movies over and over on a DVD player.
They have no gaming consoles, like Xbox, no cellphones, no bicycles or computers.
But they do have each other.
“When I think about when I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of things, but we had fun, we had fun as children and I just want the best for my grandchildren,” Scott said.
She is in the process of adopting Nadahlia and her half-brother, Demari, who has the same mother as Nadahlia. Both of them are members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, which nominated the family for Wishbook.
Nadahlia’s Christmas wish doesn’t include what most people would consider luxuries: living room furniture and a kitchen table and chairs for her mother; a remote-control car; an American Girl doll; a waterproof camera and bicycles for her siblings; a toddler bed (with sheets) for her cousin; and maybe a real family vacation (other than day trips, they’ve never had one).
And all Nadahlia wants for Christmas is something most kids don’t want at all: braces.
Nadahlia has a big smile and a mouth full of teeth, some of them squeezing out from her gums.
Her grandmother’s medical plan won’t cover the $2,000 cost because they were told the braces are considered cosmetic.
“This is a family that has circumstances that are quite challenging, especially during the holidays,” Quail said.
The club serves 12,000 kids a year, most of whom live in single-parent families below the poverty line. The kids they serve after school get a meal, help with their homework and participate in sports and other activities.
The need is great in Broward where he says 79,000 children below the age of 18 are in poverty.
“We find that what’s happening in our community is people are struggling and there is a network of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles that have a desire and need to assist with raising these children,” Quail said.
Quail said members of his club were particularly touched by Scott’s plight, how hard she works and how humble she is.
“Behind every kid at our club, we know there is a story there that is like this one. Ms. Scott just can’t do it alone.”
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.