Ruffin, W (2009), Kindship Care: Grandparents and Relatives as Parents. Retrieved on April 7, 2010 from http://www.aces.edu/urban/FamilyWebsite/grgfeature.html
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Feature Article
Kinship Care: Grandparents and Relatives as Parents
By: Dr. Wilma J. Ruffin, Family & Human Development Specialist Many grandparents in the United States (US) are finding grandparenthood different from what they expected. Instead of the occasional visits from their grandchildren, they have taken on the role of primary parents to their grandchildren. According to 2000 US Census data, six million (8.4 percent) of all children under the age of 18 are living in grandparent or other relative-maintained households across the nation. The Census further found that nearly 5.8 million grandparents are living in households with one or more of their own grandchildren under the age of 18. More than 2.4 million of these grandparents are primarily responsible for meeting the basic needs of these children. In Alabama, more than 113,000 (10.1 percent) children are now living in these conditions. Although the percentage of children in Alabama living in grandparent or relative-maintained households is somewhat higher than the national percentage, a closer look at Alabama counties reveals other astounding percentages. For example, in Madison County 7.2 percent of children are living with grandparents or relatives. While this percentage is lower than the national average, two counties in West Alabama, Lowndes (19 percent) and Wilcox (17.3), both have higher national percentages. And Huntsville located in Northern Alabama, reported that as many as 1524 grandparents are the primary caregivers of grandchildren, and at least 2922 grandparents now live in the household with one or more grandchildren under the age 18. Certainly, grandparents and relatives serving as the primary parent is not a new phenomenon; however, it is a rapidly growing trend that transcends all socioeconomic groups, geographic areas, and ethnicities. A variety of family circumstances such as the death of one or both parents, parental abandonment, family violence, the high incidence of divorce, parental imprisonment, drug addiction, or mental illness, and an increase in the number of never-married mothers (especially teen mothers) have all contributed to this rapidly growing trend. Unfortunately, the AIDS epidemic also plays a role in this increasing shift of responsibility for child rearing. These influences give rise to the increasing number of "skipped generation families," where the biological parent is absent from the home and grandparents serve as the sole or primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Regardless of the diverse circumstances that led to grandparents and relatives new role, they share the common goal of wanting to provide a stable, nurturing environment for the children. Dedicated caregivers often take on their new roles at tremendous personal sacrifice. In fact, many grandparent caregivers find their personal resources stretched to the limit, and they lack the support of friends who can identify with the stressors they may be facing. Issues of health financial stability and parenting are also important to these individuals. Financial resources planned for the retirement years may be quickly depleted as the children's needs are addressed. In addition, grandparents often report other obstacles, including difficulty obtaining insurance coverage for dependent grandchildren and enrolling their grandchildren in school when they do not have formal guardianship of the child. Even when the grandparent has obtained legal authority over the child, custody arrangements are continually subject to challenge from biological parents and the stability of the arrangements remain uncertain (Family Information Services, 1999). Working through the many bureaucratic systems that the family may be involved with can be frustrating and difficult. Grandparents,...
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