A sad fact about our society today is that there is an increasing number of grandparents raising their grandkids because their own children are unable or unwilling to do it due to a variety of factors that can include parental death, homelessness, neglect, drug addiction, poverty, and mental illness. In fact, a recent study revealed that over 2.5 million grandparents in the US are now raising one out of every twelve grandchildren.
If you or someone you know is in this situation there can be a number of questions that arise about custody, financial assistance, school enrollment, housing, health care, and basic mental well-being. But there’s no reason to despair. There are a lot of resources and support out there — the biggest being AARP – along with a number of activist organizations such as Grandfamilies of America.
Studies have also shown that seniors who might have been looking forward to winding down after retirement often experience an initial period of feeling overwhelmed and alone when suddenly faced with raising their children’s children. But often with a little outside support, those feelings turned into more positive ones as the new relationship with their grandkids develops.
Here are some helpful tips for grandparents who find themselves raising their grandkids:
Talk with an attorney
Depending on your specific situation and your need for additional outside help, there are a number of legal arrangements that can be made such as adoption, legal guardianship, legal custody, kinship care via your state’s foster-care system, and others that would qualify you for a variety of benefits and the ability to make decisions about your grandchild’s life. Talk with an attorney to find out what’s best for you and your grandchildren.
Understand what your housing can handle
Seniors live a wide variety of homes – from houses and condominiums to apartments and assisted living communities. If you live in senior or subsidized housing and aren’t sure what your living arrangements can accommodate, talk with management or seek legal advice. Often what you can or can’t do revolves around what constitutes a “family” according to the managers or owners of your property.
Investigate public assistance
There is nothing shameful or wrong about seeking assistance. With America’s aging population and a shaky economy, increasing numbers of people are suddenly finding themselves requiring a little help now and then – it can happen to anyone and it does. Check with your state and local government agencies and online resources such as AARP for information about healthcare, housing, food, clothing, and education assistance. There are a number of sources for a wide range of public assistance out there, you just have to look.
Join a support group
Nothing brings smile and lifts the spirits as much as having friends and fellow grandparents who understand what you’re experiencing and can provide a sympathetic ear and an encouraging word.
There are as many different kinds of support groups as there are people, so seek out one or more that best fit your needs. Often you’ll find announcements for them and information about them at your local senior center, church, library, or municipal office. Check private and government online resources. The important thing is to get together with others who are happy to mutually share warm, caring support.