Grandparents Raising Children



How Did You Get To This Point?

Grandparents raising grandchildren is becoming much more common. You love your grandchildren but taking on such a huge responsibility when you may start experiencing health problems or you may have a reduced income makes this new life path a challenge. The National Family Caregiver Support Program provides localized information and assistance for grandparents who have taken on this role.

Why would a grandparent choose to become the primary caregiver for a grandchild? It varies from family to family but some reasons are:

    • death of the parents
    • incarceration of the parents
    • unemployment of the parents
    • substance abuse by the parents
    • teen pregnancy
    • family violence
    • HIV/AIDS
    • unwillingness of the parents to care for the child
    • inability to pay for the care of the child

Any of these reasons would put a strain on family dynamics and could impose unforeseen hardships on the grandparents taking on this new challenge. We are here to help you and provide you with information and support to help you be successful.




Coping Strategies

Certainly one of the best ways to help yourself cope is to take good care of yourself mentally and physically.

Another coping strategy is to join a support group for grandparents caring for a grandchild. You may feel that you "are not a joiner" or that you "don't have time" to participate in a support group. But, grandparents who have become involved say it is wonderful to have the support of people who are going through the same thing they are going through. They share resources, joys, and sorrows. They become part of your extended family and help the way only family can. Support groups don't have to be local. There are websites that offer online chat groups and online support. You choose what fits you best. And, if you don't find what you want or need, start your own!


To Keep Emotionally Healthy, Be Aware of What You Feel

Emotional Ups. . .

Faith that your grandchildren's lives will be stable and sound

Satisfaction in knowing you are making a better life for your grandchildren

Comfort in knowing your grandchildren are safe with you

Gratification in knowing you are making a difference in your grandchildren's lives

Patience to cope with yourself and your grandchildren

Courage to take on the responsibility of parenting (and it is a big responsibility)

Inspiration that comes from hearing your grandchildren say, "I love you"

Gain in personal satisfaction from knowing you are strong enough for this task

Sense of Order when things go right

Happiness that you made it through another day

Pride in yourself and your grandchildren for persevering through tough times

Compassion in your relationships with your grandchildren, their friends and others

Hope that the situation will get better

and Downs that You May Encounter...

Denial of the current situation - unrealistic expectations that the parents will become responsible

Fear of how you will be able to financially and emotionally care for your grandchildren

Guilt in thinking you should have or could have done things differently with your own child

Anger at your child for abandoning or not being a responsible parent

Sacrifice in order to keep your family together

Loss of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, as well as peer contacts

Frustration when things don't go as planned

Sadness at the loss of a child and of the typical grandparent role

Disappointment in not being able to do the things you wanted at this stage in your life

Confusion in understanding the issues facing today's children

Embarrassment at having to ask for assistance for raising your "new family"


A Special Note to Grandparents...

Do any of these emotions sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. Grandparents raising their grandchildren experience all kinds of emotional ups and downs. The emotions listed above (and many more) represent the feelings of grandparents who are confronted with the challenge of raising their children's children. Parenting is a difficult, emotional job even in the best of situations. Remember to take a moment now and then to commend yourself for what you are doing-making a difference in your grandchild's life by giving her or him the chance to be a safe, loved and nurtured child.

*Emotional Ups and Downs courtesy of the Illinois Department on Aging "Starting Points for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren"



Nationwide Grandparents Caring for Grandchildren Information

The AARP Foundation, the Children's Defense Fund, Casey Family Programs' National Center for Resource Family Support, The Brookdale Foundation, the Child Welfare League of America, and Generations United have compiled and released state fact sheets that include:

  • Census data on the number of grandparent caregivers and the children they are raising
  • A list of local programs, resources and services, including support groups and local contact information
  • State foster care policies for kinship (grandparent and other relative) caregivers
  • Information about key public benefit programs
  • Important state laws
  • National organizations that may be of help

Children's Defense Fund Logo

The Children's Defense Fund is a private, nonprofit organization supported by foundations, corporations, and individuals. Their mission is to work to meet the needs of children and their parents. They offer information on subsidized guardianship and guardianship laws per state.

Another resource they offer is a set a set of four guides, specifically for kinship caregivers. They are:

Guide to Health Insurance for Children
Guide to Child Care and Early Education Programs
Guide to Food and Nutrition Programs for Children


Guide to Raising Children with Disabilities
These guides are designed to answer questions and offer information about federal programs, eligibility requirements, and how to enroll the children being raised so they receive the supports they need.



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