At home in the village of Holley, not a single day goes by that Tammi Bale can forget the night she lost her son.

“March 10th, 2016 I got a phone call about 11 o’clock at night—actually a text saying call me, Bob is dead,” she said.

Her son, Robert Bale, was only 28 when he died of a heroin overdose — one of close to 130 men county officials say were killed by the drug in 2016.

“He hid it well; he hid it from all his friends,” she added.

Bale says her daughter got involved with drugs, too, and was in a dangerous situation. As a result, Bale felt obligated to take sole custody of her grandchildren.

“There was a shooting in Rochester and I went and got my grandchildren because they were in custody and I brought them here,” she said. “That was eight years ago.”

In Rochester, Linda James, another grandmother, shares a similar story about her oldest daughter, Katrina Myers.

Katrina came from Washington D.C. to Upstate New York only to return to D.C. after six months.

“I thought if I brought her here to Rochester to get away from that situation that she would do well,” said James. “In 1991, she was found in an abandoned field, her body was decomposed. She had been strangled with a bag.”

James, too, was faced with the decision to take in her grandchildren. The options were “guardianship or either custody, so that I can keep them.”

Bale and James are far from alone. According to a national database, New York State has an estimated 312,663 kids now living with grandparents. Experts have a term for these kinds of living situations: grandfamilies.

For both women, the most important thing of all is keeping their families together.


By Breon Martin


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