By Parri O. Black, Courier & Press, April 19, 2016 –
Now that I am a grandparent, I have joined “the club” of proud Grannies, Nanas, Mimis, and more, who would no doubt go to the ends of the earth on behalf of a grandchild. Thankfully, most grandparents have the privilege of doting, spoiling and cuddling without the worries of educating, disciplining and providing.
My husband and I get all the joy without the hassles, happily returning the “perfect grandsons” to their parents, who have the real responsibility of child-rearing. As many grandparents are fond of saying, “Had we known how much fun grandchildren would be, we would have had them first.”
However, it’s not that simple when parents can no longer take care of their children and the responsibility falls to grandparents. It may be because of a parent’s death, child abuse or neglect, military deployment, incarceration or deportation. Whatever the reason, these children need a safe, stable and loving family environment.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, more than 2.5 million children in America were raised by grandparents or other relatives at some time in their lives.
When family members or close friends take on this parental responsibility, it’s called “kinship care,” which sounds much sweeter than the often harsh reality. Many times the need arises when grandparents are living on limited or low incomes, and now they must also struggle to meet the basic needs of grandchildren.
The Casey Foundation released a report calling on governments and communities to improve the availability of benefits and resources for kinship families, so that their children can thrive and succeed. The report found that these families need extra help to handle a variety of challenges, including:
Emotional and behavioral issues tied to the trauma of things such as child abuse and neglect or simply parental separation.
Legal hassles obtaining the necessary authority to enroll a child in school, access basic medical care, give consent for services or become a licensed foster parent to qualify for more assistance.
Financial burdens accessing government supports and paying for food, clothing, child care, health insurance and more.
No matter the circumstance, parenting has never been easy or cheap. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the average monthly cost of raising a child is $1,135.
As a grandmother, there is nothing I would trade for the joy of having a grandchild, but then again, I’m not shouldering the primary responsibility of parenting. Grandparents and other relatives who step up to care for children in need are truly priceless and deserve our support and gratitude.