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Grandparents as Caregivers - Raising Grandchildren

Updated on December 7, 2010

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Throughout history, grandparents have been an integral part of the family unit. Often grandparents lived in the home and were instrumental in the emotional and financial support of the children. The more modern trend was a move away from this as families grew more affluent, mobility became easier, and they moved apart in search of better jobs, schools, or living conditions. During more recent times, the idea of the nuclear family has dissolved. The image of the traditional family unit of two parents and children living in the same household, is changing. With an increase in the number of single parent homes, the divorce rate, teen pregnancy, and alcohol, drug or parental abuse, grandparents have once again found themselves in the position of providing emotional and financial support to their grandchildren.

The number of children living with grandparents in the United States is reported to be nearly 8 million.  In over half of these homes, the grandparent is providing full responsibility for the child's needs without either of the parent's living in the home.  This can be an unexpected burden to the grandparent who assumed they had made it through their child raising years and were looking forward to retirement and the freedom to follow their own dreams.

In many cases the care starts out informally but turns into a full time situation, leaving the grandparents with no legal arrangements and the question of what to do next. The financial burden can be considerable causing feelings of guilt and resentment. The poverty level in homes where grandparents are raising grandchildren is significantly higher than that of the more 'traditional' parent headed households.

The grandparent willing to become a full time caregiver can be a positive influence on a grandchild who may have come from a home with risk factors such as alcohol and drug use, physical abuse or abandonment.  The unconditional love and supportive from a grandparent can offer much needed stability and serve as a healthy role model in the life of their grandchild.  Grandparents represent a sense of family continuity and gives the child someone familiar to attach and connect to.

Grandparents - Raising your children's children
Grandparents - Raising your children's children

Financial Help

Financial help is available to grandparents raising their grandchildren.

TANF or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a program for low income families which provides cash assistance, food stamps and low or no cost childcare. Benefits vary from state to state and is based on the families need. Grandparents need to prove their relationship to the child by providing birth certificates or other legal documents.

Free health coverage can be obtained for children in households with a limited income. These health care programs cover well-child visits, immunizations and routine medical care including hospitalization.

Social Security Benefits can be applied for in the case of the death of the parent. The benefits are payable to the child and must be used to meet the their living expenses.


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