A Tampa couple is facing the challenge of becoming parents to their grandchildren after their daughter was killed in an accident.
- Floyd and Dawn Stahl's daughter Heather died Feb. 4
- Grandparents now parents to Heather's 3 children
- Kinship Care helping Stahl family connect to important services
Floyd Stahl said he had survived seven heart attacks and being in a coma after complications from kidney cancer several years ago. He wondered why God had kept him alive.
"Could never figure out what his plan was - thought he was just punishing me. But he kept me here for that,” Stahl said with a smile, referring to taking in his three grandchildren.
Stahl explained he and his wife Dawn moved from Pennsylvania to Tampa to retire and be close to his daughter, Heather, who often had problems. She often asked the couple to care for the children.
"Well either she would lose her house, she would need to have a couple months break,” Stahl said.
A few months ago Heather appeared to be getting her life together, but then the unthinkable happened. Heather was riding to work on her bicycle on Bears Avenue on Feb. 4 when she turned into traffic and was struck and killed by a pickup.
Stahl said he never considered placing the children in foster care.
“There’s no way I would allow them into the foster care," he said. "Because they need their family. I’m very family oriented and kids need their family."
Stahl said he has run into many obstacles while trying to get benefits for the children and survive on his disability income. But he has had an agency on his side during the process: the Kinship Care program at Tampa’s Family Enrichment Center.
Kinship Care works to connect relatives with the services they need so the children get the best situation. The program works to keep children with family members when parents are not an option.
Executive director Judy Rowland-Smith said the Stahls face issues seen by many relatives who take in children.
"Often times [children] feel isolated, so they need supports," said Rowland-Smith. "You know, that feeling that you belong some place, that you are with people who know you and love you unconditionally. Those are the things that families offer children."
Becoming parents in their retirement years will be a challenge for the Stahls. Floyd said it’s a challenge he believes he wants to meet, even after severe health issues.
"I can’t die and I won’t die," he said. "I’m very hard headed."
Floyd’s granddaughter, 17-year-old Divine Pidola, believes the same thing.
"It’s not his time to go yet. He needs to see his two younger ones grow,” she said.
For more information about the Kinship Care program, visit their page at fectampa.org.