May 26, 2017

Grandfamilies...the latest findings

Grandfamily is a term for a family where the children are being raised by their grandparents. 

The latest findings show there are 5,600,000 children currently living with their grandparents.  This is 7.7% of the children in the U.S. 

What about the grandparents? 
  • 63% are under the age of 60. 
  • 58.7% are in the workforce.
  • 21% are living below the poverty line.
  • 24% have a disability.
  • 29% are unmarried.
  • Ethnicity:
    • 52% are white
    • 21% are African American
    • 20% are Hispanic
    • 3% are Asian
    • 2% are American Indian
The number of grandparents raising their grandchildren has doubled since 1970.  Why the dramatic increase?  The key reason is because grandparents don't want their grandchildren to be placed in foster care.  What is happening to the children's parents to cause this?

Drug abuse. Sometimes the parents have died of a drug overdose.  In 2015, there were over 20,000 overdose deaths linked to opioids and almost 13,000 related to heroin.  Some of these were parents who left behind at least one child.  Of course, not all parents who abuse drugs die, but continue to abuse and neglect their children.  Two-thirds of all cases of child abuse and neglect are tied to substance abuse.  In many cases, this causes the grandparents to have to step in and take custody. 

Mental illness.  Sometimes the parent is mentally ill, suffering from such problems as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or major depression.  They may abuse drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate.  When this happens, state social services steps in, looking for family members to help.  In most cases, this is the grandparents.

Incarceration.  When parents are in jail or prison, often the grandparents step in to raise the children.

Take a closer look at your own congregation and you're likely to find grandfamilies.  They need your encouragement and support.  Think about it.  It probably has resulted in an interruption to any plans the grandparents had for their own retirement years.  It can also place demands on their health and income that they were unprepared for. 

How can we support grandparents who are parents again?
  • Be sensitive to grandparents who are in this situation.  Let them personally know you are there to support and encourage them.    
  • Have a list of programs in your area that provide day care, legal assistance, advocacy services, health care, substance abuse treatment and mental health support.
  • Start a support group for grandfamilies in your community.  Give grandparents the opportunity to encourage each other and share ideas for solving the problems they are facing.
  • Check out The Legacy Coalition founded by my friend, Larry Fowler.  They encourage authors, speakers and organizations to create resources on grandparenting.  They also encourage local churches to focus on the vital grandparent-grandchild relationship
Families today come in lots of different make ups.  Let's be prepared to minister to the growing number of grandfamilies.

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