Social Security benefits allow Harriet Moulton to care for her grandson

From Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies

With her two children grown, Harriet Moulton and her husband began to map out how they wanted to enjoy a little more space and time together. “We figured that we had a number of years to ourselves, to do things we’d like to do. We had two empty bedrooms – one was going to be his study, one was going to be for my art and sewing.”

But a phone call six years ago derailed their plan. Harriet heard her son’s voice on the other end of the line. “Come get Damian,” he said, “or he’s going to the state. I can’t take care of him.”

She responded without hesitation. “Hold on while I get an airplane ticket,” she said. “I’ll be right there.” Harriet, who was 44 at the time, bought a ticket to Colorado and came back with Damian, her three-month-old grandson.

For several years, Harriet and her husband, George, took care of Damian. Just before she and her husband completed the process of legally adopting Damian, George died in May 2010. The following October the adoption went through, but fortunately Damian remained eligible for survivor benefits.

“I’m really thankfully we were able to adopt him,” Harriet said. “It allows him to be eligible for the survivor benefit and every penny counts.”

She transformed one of their previously empty rooms into Damian’s bedroom, and the other now houses the breakables Harriet packed away once Damian started walking. “I thought at this age I’d be able to sleep late. Instead I’m chasing after a 6-year-old,” she says.

Although money remains tight, Harriet is committed to being the best mother to Damian that she can be. “He’s bubbly and fun-loving,” she says. She is sure Social Security enables her to provide Damian with a healthy and happy childhood. “If they made cuts, there would be a lot less grandparents raising their grandkids,” she says. “They just wouldn’t be able to afford it, and the kids would be forced to be in state foster care, which would be a real shame.”

More recently, Harriet needed medical treatment herself. Following a lung biopsy, she now receives a small disability payment each month as well. She is very direct about her need for the safety net Social Security provides. “It’s the difference between being in the house I own and being in a family shelter,” she said. “There would be no way I could stay here without the assistance I get from Social Security.”

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