Anntesha Chesterson and Alison Caliendo

Anntesha Chesterton tells her colleague at Foster Kinship, Alison Caliendo, about the joys and challenges of being a grandfamily caregiver. Foster Kinship helps families with children who can’t live safely with their parents or whose parents have passed away.

Alison: How did your grandfamily come together?

Anntesha: My younger sister had got into a lot of relationships that were bad for her. She dealt with substance abuse. It’s a really different situation when you take in a relative’s child because you love the birth parent and you know that they could be better. So it was really heartbreaking to see my sister go in that downward spiral. But I needed to care for the kids.

So I took her four children on top of having my three children and they were all under the ages of seven. There were a number of challenges from financial to just emotional support and then of course, when you have that many kids in the home, they eat all the time.

I grew up in foster care and so I knew that there were some resources such as TANF and SNAP. There’s a lot of requirements with TANF that I really struggled with because I knew that my sister and her husband would have to pay child support. But as the time went on, I really needed that financial support. And so I applied for TANF benefits and got approved.

Alison: What’s changed for you and your family since this pandemic started?

Anntesha: Since everything was shut down, it was really hard to access resources. And so I knew when all of this happened that I needed to get SNAP benefits right away, because I would have a house full of kids and not enough money to be able to feed them. And so I remember going up to the welfare office that next morning, when it all happened. They were closed. Somebody that was there told me, just put your application in online. And I did that. About two weeks after, I was able to get approved for my SNAP benefits.

In the meantime, what I did was look for food banks and I would take the kids up to the schools that provided them breakfast and lunch. We would do that every day. I had really bad anxiety just leaving the house. I have autoimmune issues and so if I were to get sick, it could be fatal for me. But then as a mother, I felt like I had to put my kids first and get them what they needed. And so at the end of the day, I just had to do it.

Alison: I didn’t know you had to wait two weeks to get SNAP benefits. I think that we as a community did not come together around families like yours to keep them safe.

Anntesha: I felt it would’ve been easier if maybe they had the food resources at like the bus stops. Cause it’s much closer to the house and I can have my kids walk up to the bus stop, get their lunch and breakfast and then come back.

Alison: That’s a good idea. Log it for the next pandemic.

Anntesha: Yes.

Alison: You hold it together so well. You’re an amazing mom, caregiver, aunt, sister, and fighter and advocate for families. So thank you so much, Anntesha.

Anntesha: Thank you.


This segment was produced by StoryCorps, a non-profit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

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