Monday, April 7, 2014

Grandfamilies Find New Challenges, Satisfaction


When her son and daughter-in-law had to give up their two-year-old to foster care because they weren’t able to care for her, Rhonda flew from Baltimore to Tucson to retrieve her granddaughter. “I didn’t hesitate one bit. I had to chuckle to myself that I had just sent my youngest off to college and was relishing being an empty nester and getting to know my new home! Hello new life! . . . My son and daughter-in-law both signed over legal guardianship to me, the judge signed the papers and we flew back home to Baltimore the following day. That Sunday morning we woke up to freezing cold rain. I had no diapers, one change of clothes, no milk, no car seat, no stroller, NOTHING! But I didn’t care, it seemed like Christmas morning to me” (from Raising Your Grandchildren).

Rhonda is one of the growing number of older adults who find themselves being parents again, a phenomenon known as “grandfamilies.” A broader term is “kinship caregivers,” which refers to care provided for children by relatives other than their parents.
According to the U.S. 2010 Census, more than 2.7 million households consisted of grandparents raising their grandchildren, an increase from the 2000 Census. In fact, the number of children being raised by grandparents or other relatives is higher than those being raised in the foster care system by a ratio of 25 to 1. By keeping children out of foster care, grandfamilies save taxpayers more than $6.5 billion each year (figures from Generations United).

According to the U.S. 2010 Census, more than 2.7 million households consisted of grandparents raising their grandchildren, an increase from the 2000 Census. In fact, the number of children being raised by grandparents or other relatives is higher than those being raised in the foster care system by a ratio of 25 to 1. By keeping children out of foster care, grandfamilies save taxpayers more than $6.5 billion each year (figures from Generations United).

However, more than 60 percent of those grandparents are still in the workforce, and 21 percent are living below the poverty level. Both factors contribute to the challenges of being a parent again. So widespread has kinship care become that the government has created a website, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, with links to benefits and assistance, health and safety resources, data and publications and state resources. For additional information, see sidebar.

More Need for Grandfamilies
There are many reasons that more grandparents are becoming involved in raising their grandchildren. “More often than not, there is a correlation between alcohol and drug abuse and neglect on the part of the parents. The parent/s may be mentally ill, incarcerated or simply and unfortunately incapable of caring for their children,” reports Raising Your Grandchildren, a website dedicated to helping “guide grandparents and other relatives (kinship parents) in their efforts to raise, parent and educate these children.” Other reasons include:
  • As divorce rates increase, grandparents often step in to take care of their grandchildren during times of transition or uncertainty.
  • Grandparents are younger and healthier than previous generations of grandparents, so they are more able to care for children.
  • An increase in the number of single parents, often women, results in many unable to support their child(ren).
  • More teenage pregnancies means grandparents are helping when their children can’t handle the emotional or financial burden.
  • Parents become ill, disabled or die.
  • If parental abuse or neglect is found, grandfamilies are seen as a better option than foster care.
  • When military children are deployed, grandparents step in.
The impact on older adults raising their grandchildren is often emotionally rewarding but can also be both financially and emotionally difficult.

Emotional Issues
A 60-year-old woman tells of the hardships raising her four grandchildren, including one with Asperger’s condition, by herself. Her only source of income is state assistance, food stamps and death benefits from the father of the oldest boy. “There is absolutely nothing extra [money] to do anything for the kids except things that are free,” she told Raising Your Grandchildren. “All that to say, it is really hard at this age to be taking on the responsibility of these four kids, but I love them to pieces and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I have seen the younger three grow and mature and become awesome kids.”

Taking on the responsibility of child-rearing at an age that most people consider their leisure years can bring up a lot of emotions. You may feel grief and guilt over the inability of your children to be good parents, anger and resentment at having to step into the parenting role again, stress in trying to balance your life and figure out everything that needs to be done (school, activities, etc.). There’s also culture shock in having to deal with a generation, twice removed from you, which is more knowledgeable about technology, for example.

Some children arrive with preexisting problems or risk factors such as abuse, neglect, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol or loss of parents (due to death, abandonment or incarceration). If the parents are still around, a child can have conflicting loyalties between parents and grandparents.

One of the first sources of stress is being uncertain about where to start when grandchildren first show up. Experts suggest first focusing on basic needs such as a good bed, food and clothing. Contact the children’s teachers, doctors and anyone else who has been involved in the children’s lives.

To continue reading this article, visit http://www.csa.us/freeresources/socialinterestlibrary/grandfamilies-find-new-challenges-satisfaction/

Sources
“Grandparents: As Parents,” Colorado State University Extension Service
“Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,”
AARP
“Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Raising Your Grandchildren
“Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” U.S. government


Are you a grandparent raising your grandchildren? Did you raise your grandkids, who are now grown and on their own? We'd love to hear from you! Share your story with the CSA Blog!

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us