Grandparents Parenting Again
Are you a grandparent raising a grandchild? If you are, you’re one of more than 2.4 million other grandparents nationwide doing the same. When the children’s families needed help, the grandparents stepped up and volunteered to take care of grandchildren. Sometimes, a parent has died; in other cases, substance abuse or mental health disorders have afflicted parents. Some parents are incarcerated; and some are serving in the military.
According to the 2000 census, about 4.5 million children across the country (6.3% of all children under the age of 18) lived in households headed by grandparents. That number increased by 30% since 1990. In Oregon, 37,500 children lived in grandparent headed households.
Those grandparents are probably a lot like you. Most are younger than 60; many feel like they’re all alone; and many don’t know where to turn for the help they need. There is so much to learn when you take over the raising of a grandchild, so much to think about, so many problems to solve.
By stepping in to care for their grandchildren when parents are absent, these caregivers provide stability for children and keep children out of the formal foster care system. They have made great sacrifices to help care for and protect these children, and would have it no other way. They hope to be able to continue care for the children and keep them out of foster care, but they need help.
These family care givers have unique needs which are not adequately addressed by existing laws or policies governing non-parental care, which are often misunderstood, or which simply don’t exist. The burdens can be immense.
When can you make decisions for the children? What does it take to get them enrolled in school? Is there financial aid from the government? Can you qualify for food stamps? What do you do if the house isn’t big enough?
Currently, a few states have enacted legislation and created programs to ease some of these issues and to provide assistance. Oregon has not yet done so. However, there are numerous other resources. Your grandchild may be eligible for Social Security or Medicaid, or able to get money from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Websites to try include the AARP’s, and the Oregon State Department of Human Resources. These will lead to many others. Good Hunting.
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