Grandparents Who Parent-Grandfamilies or Skip-Generation Families
For some Seniors, the squeals and giggles of their visiting grandchildren are a welcome sound. Nationwide, the constant whir of grandchildren in motion is a daily event for more than 2.5 million grandparents caring for their grandchildren.
Kinship care has been around since the beginning of time, however, the experience of kinship care and grandfamilies has changed. As our population of grand- and great-grandparents expands, it is expected that the incidence of grandfamilies will increase.
The substance abuse, abuse and neglect, incarceration and extended military deployments are leading causes of children living with their grand or great grandparents. The opioid crisis has claimed the lives of many parents around the country. Substance abuse is one of the leading causes of child abuse and neglect. Under Federal and State statute Child Protective Services in all states are required to consider kinship care before other foster care options. Prolonged military deployments of one (or both parents) result in children living with their grand or great grandparents.
According to the Rhode Island Grandfamilies Fact Sheet there are over 6000 grandparents caring for children under the age of 18 in Rhode Island.
- 1,680 (27.8%) do not have parents present.
- 3,947 (65.3%) are under age 60.
- 3,898 (64.5%) are in the workforce.
- 1,233 (20.4%) are in poverty.
- 1,203 (19.9%) have a disability.
- 2,121 (35.1%) are unmarried.
Grandparents often have debts such as mortgages, car loans or credit card debt. A grandfamily should speak with a financial advisor before applying for, or co-signing, federal student loans for college tuition. Your Social Security can be garnished if you default on a federal student loan.
More than 20% of grandparents who are financially responsible for caring for their grandchildren live in poverty. Dipping into their own retirement savings to care for their grandchildren leaves them at risk of not meeting their own needs as they age.
Many grandparents have informal caregiving arrangements and no legal authority over the child’s care. This can make it extremely difficult when registering children for school, obtaining state financial assistance or accessing healthcare. Free, or low cost, legal assistance may be available to determine if legal custody, guardianship or adoption is the best option.
If you have legal custody of your grandchildren you may be able to apply for:
- financial assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program
- tax benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or Dependency Credit (speak to a professional)
- health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program
The Good News-
Research conducted during the Great Recession indicated Seniors caring for children were at a much greater risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes. Current research indicates that Seniors caring for grandchildren report a greater satisfaction with life and have greater emotional attachments. The children promote social engagement, physical activity and community engagement.
Our Legislatures recognized that grandfamilies need support. On July 9th 2018, President Trump signed into law “The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act”. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is charged with identifying, promoting, coordinating, and disseminating information about resources to help grandfamilies.
If you want to learn more about the resources currently available to Grandfamilies in Rhode Island come to “Calling All Veterans Day” on May 9th at the URI Ryan Center to hear our expert speaker Magdalea Andreozzi founder of Grands Flourish.