As I contemplate my six children and 12 grandchildren, I wonder at times what would happen if my wife and I were thrust into the role of raising one or more of our grandchildren. In a perfect world, parents raise their children in their own homes and grandparents have the privilege and joy of spoiling their grandchildren—and then sending them back home to their parents. Well, it’s not a perfect world that we live in, and more and more grandparents find themselves in the position of part-time, temporary, full-time, or permanent primary caregivers and/or guardians for their grandchildren.
This national situation is not limited to a certain geographical area or to any particular population. Every year more and more grandparents of all ages and from all ethnic and socio-economic groups are becoming primary caregivers for their grandchildren. It is vital for grandparents to realize that raising children today is not the same as it was when most grandparents were raising their own children. Laws, social services and resources, education, medical care, insurance coverage, and child care have all undergone significant changes. Many of today’s grandparents have been “out of the loop” when it comes to knowing where to go for help in raising children in the 21st century.
Regardless of the reasons grandparents are raising their grandchildren, and whatever their specific needs, all grandparents in this situation have one thing in common: they seek to provide a loving, safe, and stable environment for their grandchildren, a solid foundation from which their grandchildren can grow, and they are willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to do just that.
Across the country, more than 6 million children—approximately one in 12 children—are living in households headed by grandparents or other relatives while parents struggle with substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, economic hardship, divorce, domestic violence, and other serious problems.
National figures provided by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) say there are 4.5 million children under the age of 18 being raised by grandparent-headed households nationwide. That’s approximately 6.3 percent of all children under age 18 in the U.S. This represents a 30 percent increase from 1990 to 2000.
Presently in Utah there are about 100,000 grandchildren in the homes of their grandparents. Closer to home in Morgan County, the figure is 228 grandchildren live with their grandparents.
As primary caregivers, grandparents may be responsible for the legal, financial, educational, and medical decisions regarding their grandchildren. And, they may face the difficult task of gaining the necessary authority required to make those decisions.
Studies have indicated that children whose parents, grandparents and/or other significant adults share in their formal education tend to do better in school. Some of these benefits include, higher grades and test scores; long term academic achievement; positive attitudes and behavior; more successful programs; more effective schools.
All parents, grandparents and/or significant adults want their children to become successful, caring adults. Similarly, many care takers want to be involved with the formal education of their children. Sometimes, however, they don’t know where to start, when to find the time, or how to go about making positive connections with the school.
At the most basic level, parents, grandparents, and other significant adults can begin encouraging the education of their children by showing they truly value education themselves by showing an interest in reading, showing concern for child’s a progress, talking about educational issues, paying attention to school matters, enrolling in classes themselves, giving time to the school-classroom, and taking part in study group.
If you are raising a grandchild or another relative’s child, you are not alone. Millions of grandparents and other relatives are raising children.
The Guide for Grand Families can help you find your way with tips, tools and resources to the services and support you need to take care of yourself and your family.
Use the following web site if you are a grandparent taking care of your grandchildren: www.cssutah.org
The needs of children can seem overwhelming, especially if you are unexpectedly thrust into the role of being their primary caregiver. First, focus on the basic needs, such as finding a safe place for the child to sleep; providing him with food, clothing, and any medication he might need; and getting the right kind of equipment, such as a stroller, car seat and crib. If he’s older, get as much information as you can about his school and other activities he might be involved in.
I thank my grandparents for being there for me when I was in this situation as a child. They did the best they could for me and my cousin and we will be forever grateful that they were there for us when we needed them.