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By Beth Greene, MSW – September 10, 2019

More grandparents than ever are stepping up to take care of and raise their grandchildren. There are many different reasons grandparents are assuming the role of caretaker.

It may be due to the death or absence of the children’s parents, the financial situation of the parents, or because of an unsafe home due to physical abuse or drug/alcohol abuse.

Raising grandchildren brings many rewards, including giving the children a sense of security, developing a deeper relationship with them, and being able to keep them with their family instead of possibly going into foster care. However, this can also be a very difficult venture in a grandparent’s life.

One big obstacle that grandparents often face is how it affects them financially, especially if there is only one person raising the children. Of the 2.7 million grandparents raising their grandchildren in the US, 1 million of them are being raised by a single grandmother.

Another obstacle grandparents face is finding access to proper resources for the children and for themselves. Children being raised by grandparents have unique needs that may require the use of therapists, school counselors and health care providers. Grandparents and grandchildren may benefit from support groups and individual or family therapy to share their feelings and gain support.

One event that has greatly contributed to the spike in so many grandparents raising grandchildren is the opioid epidemic. Parental substance use is the reason 40% of grandchildren go to live with a grandparent.

Children coming from homes where drug use is present are often exposed to traumatic events, abuse and neglect. This exposure often leads to behavioral issues in children. Statistics show that on average, children whose grandparents have custody of them are more likely to have behavioral and emotional difficulties than those being raised by their parents.

It is very important that grandparents raising grandchildren take care of themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, as it is vital to their overall health and their ability to raise healthy children. It is also important to acknowledge and accept all feelings, both positive and negative.

It’s difficult to admit feelings such as resentment, guilt, fear, or doubt. It’s natural to have a mixture of feelings when unexpected responsibilities arise in life, but it doesn’t take away from the feelings of love for the grandchildren. It is also important to remember that the grandchildren will have mixed feelings too.

If you are a grandparent struggling to find support in your community, you can go to www.aarp.org. AARP’s website offers a comprehensive “Grandfamilies” guide with specific information on legal documents, finances, health insurance, education, childcare, and many other things you will need to know to protect your rights and maximize assistance in caring for your grandkids. Other helpful websites include:

If you are unsure what local therapists or support groups are available for you or your grandchildren, ask  a Youth First Social Worker at your child’s school (list at youthfirstinc.org) or your primary care physician. Support makes all the difference!

Grandparent and child

By Parri O. Black, Courier & Press, April 19, 2016 –

Now that I am a grandparent, I have joined “the club” of proud Grannies, Nanas, Mimis, and more, who would no doubt go to the ends of the earth on behalf of a grandchild. Thankfully, most grandparents have the privilege of doting, spoiling and cuddling without the worries of educating, disciplining and providing.

My husband and I get all the joy without the hassles, happily returning the “perfect grandsons” to their parents, who have the real responsibility of child-rearing. As many grandparents are fond of saying, “Had we known how much fun grandchildren would be, we would have had them first.”

However, it’s not that simple when parents can no longer take care of their children and the responsibility falls to grandparents. It may be because of a parent’s death, child abuse or neglect, military deployment, incarceration or deportation. Whatever the reason, these children need a safe, stable and loving family environment.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, more than 2.5 million children in America were raised by grandparents or other relatives at some time in their lives.

When family members or close friends take on this parental responsibility, it’s called “kinship care,” which sounds much sweeter than the often harsh reality. Many times the need arises when grandparents are living on limited or low incomes, and now they must also struggle to meet the basic needs of grandchildren.

The Casey Foundation released a report calling on governments and communities to improve the availability of benefits and resources for kinship families, so that their children can thrive and succeed. The report found that these families need extra help to handle a variety of challenges, including:

Emotional and behavioral issues tied to the trauma of things such as child abuse and neglect or simply parental separation.

Legal hassles obtaining the necessary authority to enroll a child in school, access basic medical care, give consent for services or become a licensed foster parent to qualify for more assistance.

Financial burdens accessing government supports and paying for food, clothing, child care, health insurance and more.

No matter the circumstance, parenting has never been easy or cheap. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the average monthly cost of raising a child is $1,135.

As a grandmother, there is nothing I would trade for the joy of having a grandchild, but then again, I’m not shouldering the primary responsibility of parenting. Grandparents and other relatives who step up to care for children in need are truly priceless and deserve our support and gratitude.