This paper will explore the financial stress and lack of resource stress that Grandparents experience while taking care of their Grandchildren. Grandparents have always played a role in the family dynamics. Grandparents are known for taking care of their grandchildren when the parents are sick, deceased or out of town. In the past several years Grandparents are becoming the primary caregiver for their grandchildren. The parents are no longer sick or out of town, majority of the parents are either deceased, abusing drugs, or suffering from a mental illness. This has become an epidemic and a major social problem. Grandparents are suffering financially, mentally, and physically because the biological parents are no longer a part of the family structure and they have taken over the primary care of their grandchildren. This problem is nothing new but is becoming a sore eye to the public. Severity of the Problem
Grandparents who have taken on the primary role of parenting their Grandchildren usually had to take on that role immediately. Grandparents did not have any amount of time to prepare mentally, financially or physically as they would have with their own pregnancy. Majority of the time the children were taken because of the parent’s inability to care for them. There have been times where parents have been killed in accidents or passed away due to medical reasons and the grandparents had to take on the parenting role. Taking on primary care at that point is different due to the children no longer having a parent to care for them. There have also been times when the Child Welfare System has stepped in to take custody of the children due to neglect or abuse. Taking on primary care at that point is disappointing because the biological parents neglected to care for their children. Whichever way the grandparent had to step in and take on the parental role they were not initially prepared for.
There are three different types of Grandparents as caregivers: one type is the grandparent who has legal custody of their grandchild or grandchildren through the court system which is Department of Children and Family Services, secondly is the grandparent who resides in the same home as their grandchildren and take on primary care while the biological parent is present in the home, and last is the grandparent who only sees their grandchildren on the weekends or holidays. When Grandparents have legal custody of their Grandchildren/child they are able to put them on their medical insurance if needed. If they are caring for them under the foster care system the Grandparents are able to receive financial and medical assistance through the state. When a Grandparent does not have any legal custody of their Grandchild it can become a problem especially if the parent is not around. The grandparent is not allowed to sign off on any educational matters or medical treatment and at that point is when the grandparents have no other choice but to involve the state.
Conservatives estimates suggest that grandparent caregivers save taxpayers approximately 6.5 billion dollars a year in federal foster care expenditures (Murphy, 2008). These statistics show that grandparents are willing to take care of their grandchildren without placing them in the care of the state. At the same time grandparents are struggling financially taken on primary care of their grandchildren. Statistics report there are 103,717 grandparents who report that they are responsible for their grandchildren living with them and 41,328 in Chicago and 1, 576 in Rockford: 41 % of these grandparents are African American; 16% are Hispanic/Latino; 2% are Asian; and 39% are White. 28% of these grandparents live in households without the children’s parents present. 76% are under the age of 60; 12% live in poverty (A state fact sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, 2007).
Causes and Consequences
Researchers report that a small amount of the Grandparents receive Government benefits which only provide them enough income to pay their own bills. 71 percent of these grandparents are under age 60, and 68 percent of them are working, a number of them need financial help and many require other forms of assistance. Some are living on fixed incomes and only about 30 percent receive any income from government programs (Marian Wright Edelman’s Child Watch® Column: “Join the GrandRally and Help Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children”, 2008). When the Grandparent becomes the primary caregiver for their grandchild they have to apply for TANF which is another government program that would give a small financial help for the grandchild. It would provide them with a small amount of cash, a small amount of income for food and medical benefits.
These problems can add more issues on the Grandparents raising grandchildren also experience isolation from others, as well as legal and economic difficulties associated with poverty, poor access to quality health care and social services, social policies that ignore the needs of grandparent families, and the increased costs of care giving ( (Bert Hayslip jr., 2007). Depending on the age of the grandchild, the grandparent would have to deal with school issues, medical issues and sometimes mental health issues. These are issues that the grandparents have not had to deal with, but now that they are the primary caregiver they have to address. There is little research on the effect of the grandchild being raised by a grandparent. The little information that was located stated that if a grandparent is over the age of 60 and trying to raise a younger child, it could be difficult due to age gap. The age gap can have a positive or negative outcome. Children raised in a two-parent family were more successful academically than children raised by grandparents (Leder, Jan-Mar 2003). Historical
This issue became a problem in the 1980’s which is around the same time crack cocaine became an epidemic. These two issues have some connection because the parents who started abusing crack cocaine could no longer care for their children and the grandparents had to step up and become the primary caregiver. Also teen pregnancy was at a high rate, single parents, and HIV/AIDS. By the 1990’s this issue had become a major problem which made the legislative people bring this matter to the table for discussion. The legislative realized that more Grandparents were raising their Grandchildren and resources were needed to maintain their stability. TANF was put in place for Grandparents regardless if they had legal custody or not. Grandparents are able to get financial and medical assistance through TANF and SSI. TANF has two grants that children who are being cared for by relatives could benefit from. The first is a grant that only the child receives benefits and the second is a grant that the family could benefit from but the Grandparent has to meet the eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, child-only grants are typically small and may be insufficient to meet the needs of the child. In 2001, the average grant was about $7 per day for one child, with only slight increases for additional children (American Bar Association, 2004)
TANF did not go into effect until 1997, which were a few years after the increase in grandparents raising their grandchildren due to lack of parental involvement from the biological parents. TANF was revamped in 2006 due to people taking advantage of the benefits and not looking for employment. TANF changed from a government benefit with no time line to having a time line with certain requirements. It also changed in regards to giving children their own case because so many grandparents were caring for their grandchildren with no assistance. TANF has assisted Grandparents with caring for their grandchildren a little but it has not made a significant change for the Grandparent financially and in regards to resources. Conclusion
The conclusion that came out of this research was that the system makes it impossible for a Grandparent to raise their grandchild or children without the state taking custody of them. The grandparent is stuck with little or no financial assistance and no educational or medical assistance. At least when the state is involved there is a caseworker and a court system that helps the grandparent out with resources. Most grandparents don’t want anyone involved with them caring for their grandchild but society makes it difficult to survive and to give them a stable and appropriate upbringing.
With the drug epidemic and the high number of people with mental health issues grandparents will continue to have to care for their grandchildren unless they allow them to go into foster care. The policy makers should assist grandparents more with caring for their grandchildren seeing that they save the federal government so much money by keeping them out of the states care. The policy makers could use half of the money that is saved on assisting the grandparents with resources to help them care for their grandchildren. This way the teenage grandchildren won’t have to go in the streets and sell drugs or the teenage girls won’t have to prostitute to make money for the family. These bad behaviors will only be a cycle for the next set of grandparents to have to raise their grandchildren. If this is what society wants then they will have to become more knowledgeable about this problem and work diligently to find a solution so the problem could stop.
A state fact sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children. (2007, October). Retrieved May 26, 2009, from GrandFacts: www.grandfactsheets.org American Bar Association. (2004, July). Retrieved May 26, 2009, from Grandparents and other relatives raising children: www.abanet.org/chil/kinshipcare.shtml Baldock, E. (2007). Grandparents raising grandchildren because of alcohol and other drug issues. Family Matters. Bert Hayslip jr., C. C. (2007). Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Benefits and Drawbacks? Journal of Intergenerational Relationships , 117-119. Leder, S. G. (Jan-Mar 2003). Psychotherapeutic treatment outcomes in grandparent-raised children. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing . Marian Wright Edelman’s Child Watch® Column: “Join the GrandRally and Help Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children”. (2008, April 18). Retrieved May 26, 2009, from Children’s Defense Fund: http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/marian-wright-edelman-child-watch-column/join-the-grandrally.html Murphy, S. Y. (2008). Voices of African American Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren: Informing Child Welfare Kinship Care Policy-Practice. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships , 26.