Grandparents. They are an important component for today's American family. They always have been, but these times we live in are so much different than grandparenting in the past. Grandparents are the mainstay in many families, the primary provider for all things basic: shelter, food and clothing. At a time when they were anticipating life's pace slowing some and dealing with their own ills, many grandparents are raising their grandchildren. It may be a labor of love, but it is not without its challenges.
The U.S. Census Bureau has provided some facts about grandparenting.
- 2.6 million grandparents are responsible for the most basic needs, food, shelter and clothing, for one or more grandchildren who lived with them in 2008. 1.6 million were grandmothers, 983,000 were grandfathers.
- 1.89 million Americans over age 65 were caregivers to grandchildren living in the household.
- 471,000 Americans over age 65 had primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.
- 977,000 grandparents had been responsible for their grandchildren for at least five years.
- 1.9 million grandparent-caregivers were married, 1.6 million were in the labor force and were responsible for most of the basic needs.
- 655,000 grandparents with a disability were responsible for their grandchildren.
What the statistics don't tell is that the grandparents often have few, if any, extra resources available to them compared to what foster families receive, and the grandchildren stay with family longer than children who are placed in a foster home. Grandparents must be able to deal with education, health, disabilities and social concerns of their grandchildren. Times have changed since the days when they were raising their children.
It is reported that infants and children who are raised by grandparents or placed in foster care have had difficulties early in life that have to be dealt with, such as asthma, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), growth problems, hearing loss and birth defects. Thinking, language, learning and motor skills may be slow in developing.
Help may be available for grandparents providing for their grandchildren. Contact the Area Agency on Aging for more information. Family Recovery Center offers a support system through the Family Support Group. It meets from 2-4 pm. the second Sunday of the month at the New Lisbon Presbyterian Church at the corner of Market and Chestnut streets. Children are welcome and supervised while caregivers talk and participate in informational workshops on issues critical to their families.
"About 90 percent of kinship families involved in the Kin & Kids program cite the parent(s) drug and alcohol addictions as the primary cause for their custody arrangements," advises Mary Caye Bixler, Director of the Kin & Kids program at Family Recovery Center's Education Department .
In order to address the addiction issues that affect the families in a more defined way, the program is planning to add another proponent to program services.
"The Kin & Kids Serenity Project will focus on the primary goal of increasing knowledge among caregivers and youth in kinship families regarding addictions and addictive behaviors in order for them to achieve some measure of serenity regarding their relationships with the youth's addicted parent(s)," Bixler said. "This project will provide opportunities for furthering intervention and prevention of drug and alcohol-related problems in kinship families. Family members will learn how to interact with the addicted parent(s) in healthy ways."
For more information about the Kin and Kids program or the Serenity Project, contact Bixler at the FRC Education Department, 330-424-0531. To learn about FRC's education, prevention and treatment programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. The Kin and Kids project is funded in part by the United Way of Northern Columbiana County.