Throughout history, grandparents and extended family have raised children; however, in our current society more and more grandparents are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren. In the United States, there are 2.4 million grandparents raising grandchildren. The idea of the two-parent family simply no longer reflects today’s modern families.
Reasons why grandparents rear grandchildren:
- To reduce financial and emotional overloads of their own children or to help in transitional situations such as when a parent is sent overseas to work or for military service.
- To shape the grandchild’s personal and cultural identity.
- To prevent placement in a foster home.
- To care for grandchild whose parents are incarcerated or have contracted illness.
- To reduce grandchild’s contact with substance-abusing parents.
- To curtail family crises, including physical and psychological abuse or neglect of children.
Rewards and drawbacks: Although there are great rewards for grandparents raising their grandchildren, such as the preservation of family history and values, the resolution of conflicts between parents and children, improved school behavior and social skills, and a life-long loving connection with grandchildren, there are also great challenges for these grandparent caretakers.
Some grandparents experience health problems due to caregiving demands, including depression, insomnia, back problems, and hypertension. Grandparent caretakers often find that they have little time to themselves because tight schedules can mean less time for other family members, friends and community activities. Additional household costs and expenses can become a financial hardship.
Get Legal Help
There are formal legal arrangements (legal guardianship, legal custody, or adoption) that will enable you to qualify for certain benefits and make decisions about your grandchild’s life. In New York, you will need legal custody or legal guardianship to enroll your grandchild in public school.
Get Support and Take Care of Yourself
It is important to seek help and support. A full database of support groups and services, for you and your grandkids, awaits you at AARP.org/grandparents. There you will find fact sheets for local support groups, legal assistance, public benefits, and state laws.