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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Easing the Burden of "Second Parenthood"

More Americans than ever are assuming the responsibility of caring for their children's children.

What's causing the increase? According to Martha Crowther, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, some reasons are:

  • Substance abuse by the parent(s)
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Child abuse, neglect, and abandonment
  • Imprisonment of the parent(s)
  • Parent(s) disabled by HIV/AIDS
  • Death of a parent

    Crowther, a facilitator of Grandparents United, a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren, helps grandparents deal with the following unexpected results of this new family dynamic:

  • A change in health: In their attempts to care for grandchildren, grandparents may begin neglecting their own health care. For example, they may forget to take their medications.

  • Stress: Grandparents find their world turned upside-down. They believed they had reached a point in their lives when child-rearing was done or almost done — now, it's starting over again. Stress also may come from the fear of a parent returning and upsetting the stability of the household. Children who come to their grandparents from difficult circumstances often bring with them a lot of problems, which the grandparents are faced with resolving. Also, older grandparents may have trouble keeping up with younger children.

  • Finances: Grandparents living on fixed incomes — even those in middle-income brackets — find the financial burden difficult. For instance, middle-income grandparents often don't qualify for any social services, so they frequently have to pay out-of-pocket for their grandchildren's health care.

    Grandparent Resources

    You or someone you know can find support in your community and through programs that help grandparents deal with the frustrations of their new role while educating them to be better caregivers. Organizations, websites, and materials are here to help:

    Brookdale Foundation Group
    126 East 56th St.
    New York, NY 10022-3668
    (212) 308-7355
    Request a free copy of the foundation's book, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Guide to Finding Help and Hope, by Marianne Takas. Send a check for $4 (to cover shipping and handling) to the Brookdale Foundation at the above address.

    The Foundation for Grandparenting
    198 Farnham Road
    Ojai, CA 93023
    Committed to promoting the importance of grandparenthood.

    Generations United
    122 C St., N.W., Ste. 820
    Washington, DC 20001
    (202) 638-1263
    Fosters intergenerational collaboration on public policy and programs to improve the lives of children, youth, and the elderly.

    Grandparent Information Center

    601 E St. N.W.
    Washington, DC 20049
    (202) 434-2296
    Serves those raising grandchildren who are concerned about their visitation rights, step-grandparents, and traditional grandparents. It publishes a free newsletter, Parenting Grandchildren, as well as website tip sheets on starting a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren.

    154 Cottage Road
    Enfield, CT 06082
    (860) 763-5789
    In partnership with National PTA.
    Adapted from "When Grandchildren Live at Grandma and Grandpa's House" in National PTA's Our Children magazine.

    More on: Grandparents


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