RETURNING TO PRIMARY CAREGIVING
OCTOBER 29, 1999 PRESENTATION TO FAMILY & CHILDREN FIRST COUNCIL CARLA JOHNSON, Presenter
Thank you to the Montgomery County FCFC leadership for the opportunity to share some facts and experiences related to kinship care, in general, and about grandparents raising their grandchildren, in particular. I would like to identify LaFrancine Lewis as one of my grandparent presenters and introduce Karen Adams as another grandparent guest. Both ladies will talk about their experiences during this morning’s presentation time. I have prepared copies of my remarks to be distributed and also provided comments about some of the twelve concerns and action items from the Ohio Department of Aging Task Force Report on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
When I originally prepared this presentation, it was interesting to note that Webster’s Dictionary includes the term “grandparent” but assigns no distinct definition or meaning. As a starting point, you and I ought to find that omission a bit strange when we consider that there are reportedly at least 98 million grandparents in this country. On a humorous note, I made my own definition of who is a “grandparent.” In terms of an official example, in the state of California, as of 1996, relative was defined as “an adult who is related to the minor by blood or affinity, including all relatives whose status is preceded by the words “step,” “great,”great-great” or “grand.” Consensus on that term took a series of discussions with agency representatives, grandparent advocates and legislators. The point to be made is that terminology is important to provide clarity, credibility and agreement for the role that grandparents can play when it comes to the policies and decisions made for children not being raised by birth parents. Adding actuary projections that folks are living longer to the overwhelming number of individuals who are or will be grandparents, the escalating circumstances where children are being cared for by persons other than birth parents and we could potentially be dealing with a formidable number of relative caregivers in this community. In addition, a magazine called “Grandparents Today” defines grandparents as the “vital connection” within many families today. In 1998, when Dr. Stephen Covey visited Dayton, one of the parting comments he made was “today we really need intergenerational families to help bond and love” every constituent. “The good rendered saves the youth and strengthens the entire family.” Across the country and in many disciplines, issues have been identified and are becoming rallying points for what is needed to successfully raise children and the relative caregivers involved. Some of those specific disciplines include child welfare, health, housing and the legal system.
While it is generally accepted that the occurrence of grandparents functioning as primary caregivers, legal or otherwise, is not new, there are notable reasons for concern about contemporary grandparenting. The historical scenario of our country presented numerous instances of grandparents living with, living near or regularly caring for their children’s children or other younger members in the family. In fact, engage in casual conversation about childhood experiences with any number of individuals and you will probably learn that at least one out of every four persons was raised by a grandparent or some other relative. What is new or different about grandparents returning to primary caregiving roles is the set of factors or situations. (display and comment on transparency of common causes”) Here are the primary reasons by most grandparents are assuming the care of relative children. These factors are characterized by emotional, physical and/or financial trauma for everyone affected. These set of circumstances do not reflect family discussions of planned transferals of responsibility between...