The phenomenon of grandparents raising their grandchildren is so common in today’s world that two acronyms have arisen: GAP, Grandparents as Parents, and GRG, which means Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Though not a new occurrence, the rates of children living with grandparents full-time is definitely on the rise. Some estimate that one in twelve children lives with a grandparent at some time in their growing up years.
Since trauma of one kind or another is often the reason for moving a child from the care of parents, there is a great need for support groups to guide well-meaning grandparents as they take on the raising of a second family. Whether there was death in the family, divorce, abuse or neglect or some other family tragedy, both the grandchildren and adult family members will be experiencing grief and stress as a new life is embarked upon.
There are legal issues to consider. Will grandparents legally adopt their grandchildren? Will they become guardians or foster parents? These decisions may require the help of a lawyer or possibly the support of an agency which caters to the legal needs of GAP’s. One agency giving excellent legal advice for grandparents is Grandparents Rights Organization, or GRO. Similarly, there most likely will be financial pressures associated with moving children into the home of their grandparents. Although many older people have the means to care for the added expenses of raising a second family, they may not have planned for that event. There will be a period of financial adjustment in which advocacy groups may be helpful. A US agency acting as a clearing house for support of grandparents raising their grandchildren in many areas of need is the National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
The emotional and mental toll of family upheavals can put pressure on both the children and the grandchildren involved. Often there is a need for counseling either individually or as a new family group. One of the foremost authorities on all the ins and outs of grandparents raising their grandchildren is Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, M.D. He has an organization which offers support of all kinds to those entering into this new way of living. Another resource is the website by Karen Best Wright called Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Karen raised three of her granddaughters for seven years before they returned to their mother’s care and shares her experiences and expertise with others.
For those living in Canada the non-profit organization called Cangrands is a source of legal and healthcare information. In the UK look at www.grandparentsplus.org.uk, www.proudgrandparents.co.uk or www.grandparentsapart.co.uk. All of these sites have helpful information and links to the resources available in that part of the world.
Though stressful and demanding, raising our precious grandchildren may be a blessing in disguise. Our grandchildren deserve to have safe and nurturing homes and we’ll have the opportunity to give them a healthy and satisfying life. The sacrifices made in giving of our time, money and efforts will be rewarded with close and loving relationships with our grandchildren.