There are nearly three million grandparents raising eight million grandchildren in the U.S. That has a cost in terms of time, money, and health.
Our Caregiver Summit covers this topic in three sessions. In this article we explore what five leading Summit experts and others recommend to help grandparents take control and achieve balance.
The Causes and the Consequences
The opioid crisis has taken the brunt of the blame as many addicted parents simply can’t, won’t, or are prohibited from raising their kids.
However, military deployments, sudden parent deaths, and incarceration can all contribute. Also, grandparents step in when there may be danger of losing a child to foster care.
The implications are many. When a grandparent steps in, they are laser-focused on their new responsibilities and often neglect their own health.
Many of these grandparents are already living below the poverty level, and grandparents with means are often spending down their retirement savings or staying in the workforce longer to be able to raise a child and put them through school.
Having to generate income into your 70s is a scary proposition and having to rely on social security as your sole income after will create hardship.
First of All, It’s a Different Relationship
When my wife and I travel to see the grandkids, it usually involves a week of fun, games, and activities. Sure, we are worn out, but as they say, we get to give them back!
It’s different when you are raising your grandchildren and you are in your 50s, 60s, and 70s. Sure, being with the children every day brings new perspectives and learning experiences you simply don’t have when you are not around. But there are also daily parenting duties.
Now instead of playing the role of spoiler, you may be the disciplinarian. After all, it’s now up to you to help grow these children into responsible adults. But there is also great joy and renewed purpose and often the children, as they age, sense what you have done and are more grateful because of it.
Help with Finances
The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) provides grants to states to fund a range of support options that assist caregivers.
Eligible is a “caregiver (who is not the birth or adoptive parent), age 55 or older, raising a related child age 18 and under or an adult with a disability.” You can contact your area agency on aging for more information.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) Child-Only Grant provides caregivers with a monthly cash benefit to help for care and can be used by grandparents, foster parents, aunts, and uncles.
For those with means, grandparenting also provides opportunities to adjust their financial strategy. Experts recommend assembling a team including a financial planner, accountant, attorney, social worker and psychologist to help guide you.
Obtaining custody or adopting grandchildren is important in that it may affect eligibility for government assistance, like social security benefits. Legal status may also qualify you for employer-sponsored caregiver benefits.
Experts advise rebalancing your investment portfolio, which also comes with risk. There may be tax credits and deductions available to you so consult the respective professionals.
Other Assistance Can Make Life Easier
The RAISE Family Caregivers Act and the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act are all great steps in raising awareness of the mentioned issues. Keep an eye on them as they are in their infancy and fact-finding stages.
GrandFacts State Fact Sheets are an invaluable resource as they can inform you about specific state programs that can help you.
Many communities have created grandparent support groups and navigator programs that help identify and access much-needed public and private resources.
Grandhousing provides apartments specifically for grandparent-headed families. Presbyterian Senior Services has one such initiative running in New York City.
Kinship Care refers to the care of children by relatives and offers social work services, foster care and adoptive services, assistance with school attendance issues, and additional services such as respite and trainings to caregivers who qualify.
For example, the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, implemented a six-week session pilot program to increase grandparents’ effective coping strategies, reduce stress, and improve parenting and communication with grandchildren.
Preliminary data suggests that participants improved their level of parental effectiveness, social relations and confidence in organizing their time and priorities while reducing depression and improving overall well-being.
If you are parenting your grandchild, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
Are you raising a grandchild or know someone who is? What strategies can you offer those in need? Please share with our community.