After the sudden death of her son, a grandmother didn’t hesitate to move across the country to raise her granddaughter—before she risked losing her forever.
Renee Rucker was running a successful business in Baltimore, Maryland, in December 2016 when her son, Gary, died from a heart attack at just 28 years old in Los Angeles. This left his daughter, then-1-year-old Skylar, in the care of Child Protective Services who were preparing to place her up for adoption within months. As Rucker tells PEOPLE TV in the inspiring new series Family Portrait, she was not going to let that happen.
“The law in California had indicated that any child under the age of 3 years old who was in foster care was automatically up for adoption six months,” Rucker says in the series, which premieres Monday, November 6. “I could not have my only grandchild up for adoption, I would never be able to see her again.”
Rucker, along with her 12-year-old daughter, Jael, uprooted their lives in Baltimore and moved to Burbank, California, where they have no friends or family, to raise Skylar as part of one household. The process has had its complexities, as Renee always keeps her son in mind when making decisions about her granddaughter.
“Parenting a grandchild versus parenting your own child, the difference is, I have to think about what would my want son want? How would he want to raise her?” she says. “It’s not just my decision.”
Family Portrait is an inspiring series that takes an in-depth look at the diversity of modern families across the country, which aims to debunk the ‘typical American family’ stereotype. Audiences can watch all six episodes on PeopleTV.com or download the PeopleTV app on their smartphone or connected-TV device. The series features personal stories covering embryo-adoption, in vitro fertilization, blended families and more, including the emotional look into the lives of the Rucker family.
“He will always continuously live on in Skylar,” Rucker says. “She was his light and his love, and I want her to know that, and I am going to continue to let her know that all the days of her life, how much her daddy loved her and how much she was his princess.”