Rozann Kimpton is the recipient of the 2017 Alaska Angels in Adoption Award, with an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. where the 81-year old will be recognized by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Her great-grandchildren have been in her care for over ten years, and her role among local families with similar dynamics has grown over that time. Colloquially called “Grandfamilies”, their presence in the American landscape is mirrored in the Mat-Su Valley, reflecting a universal degradation of family stability. Alcoholism and street drugs are often just beneath the surface of a chaotic lifestyle, with small children at the mercy of dysfunction and bureaucracy. “They were pulled out of the final drunken party, and I’ve had them ever since,” describes Kimpton as she descends the hill towards a vibrant lunchtime gathering. Her relentless hospitality extends beyond her own family.
For ten years, a tight-knit but welcoming group of Valley grandfamilies has gathered monthly for projects and fellowship. They network handily between Anchorage and Wasilla, offering solutions and becoming savvy together in this phase of life. “You’re no longer booking a cruise or going shopping — you’re chasing after a four-year-old who just gave himself a haircut!”, says one grandmother present — her own dark curls bouncing as she describes the necessity of a fresh buzzed hairstyle for her grandson.
Throughout the warmer months, the potluck get-togethers take place at the Kimptons. Nestled on 75 acres along the Little Susitna River, it’s a folksy base camp for classic summer fun. The children enjoy carefree playtime on trampolines, swingsets and water toys, everyone shares a meal, and grandparents are able to support one another in this lifestyle: pierced with pain, but filled with action. The arrangements which make them stand out in school are the norm here. “I really see the value of these children hollering, ‘Grandma’ among others who are doing the same,” asserted Kimpton.
Rozann’s award was prompted by nomination from Betsy Woodin, of Wasilla Alaska Center for Resource Families, According to Woodin, it was based on her commitment to her 2 great-grandchildren and support for other relative caregivers in the Mat-Su. “I have known Rozann for over 10 years and have seen her go from being an unlicensed caregiver to foster great-grandparent to adoptive great-grandparent of her 2 great-grandchildren Luke and Amanda. In addition, Rozann is the volunteer coordinator of our local Grandparent Support Group. Originally this group was part of the Volunteers of America statewide Grandfamilies Program, but VOA did not have staff in the Valley.” The group has cobbled together a savvy resource pool, comprised of extended family members with children in their care. Generational trauma is not a buzzphrase to these families, with their own children being the ones to succumb to addiction, they’ve faced the unspeakable and forged a new reality for their grandchildren. Candor flows freely around the campfire, with palpable strength evident in their stories of rescuing little ones from the crossfire. Fetal alcohol and drug exposure is often a factor, with varying implications. It may mean a lifetime of dependence on other adults; it nearly always means special precautions and unique planning for the future.
When praised for their sacrificial generosity, one of the women present is unflinching. She doesn’t wax sentimentally or share idealistic visions — instead, she responds with the steely resolve of a grandmother: “The alternative is worse. What would they be facing, if we hadn’t stepped in?”
A friend and supporter of the family has launched a fundraiser to augment travel costs for the September ceremony. Donations can be offered at https://www.gofundme.com/help-support-ms-rozann-kimpton