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Grandparents Are Caregivers Too!

“Today, grandparents continue serving as quiet heroes in every corner of our country. From reading bedtime stories to their grandchildren to volunteering in their communities to acting as primary caregivers, they work hard each and every day while showing love and kindness to their families and those around them. Let us continue to show them the same, and let us forever honor their tremendous efforts to nurture, guide, and drive us in all we do.”

 

obamaThose are the words of President Barack Obama in his 2015 proclamation of Grandparents Day, September 13th. Obama speaks from experience. He, President Clinton, and several other famous and successful people grew up with the primary guidance and financial support of their grandparents.

In society we still hold an image of grandparents as elders that we visit and care for.  If you have grandparents I hope you do that on Grandparents day and often. Increasingly though grandparents are busy and active and raising our next generation! You may not have read about it but grandparenting has doubled since 1970. In Washington 130,000 kids live with their grandparent and, according to 2012 Census figures, over 43,000 of those grandparents are the child’s primary caregiver.  Ten percent of all children live with a grandparent and, in 60% of those multi-generational houses, grandparents provide the primary caregiving and financial support.  This Grandparents Day, as we reflect on the values that grandparents share with us, it’s also important to acknowledge that grandparents are caregivers too. They need our love and kindness. They need our social recognition and support. They need easier access to services and programs when they assume responsibility for our kids!

grandparents-day-memeGrandparents are often prompted to care for grandchildren when something goes wrong in their family of origin: divorce, death, violence, incarceration, drug use, teen pregnancy, or homelessness. Grandparents provide a stable family alternative to foster care.  As Kinship caregivers, appointed by law or stepping forward informally, grandparents assume responsibility for their grandchildren when the children’s parents can’t. But raising a child who isn’t your own involves parenting complications such as hurdles accessing TANF or Medicaid and difficulty enrolling the child in school or making medical decisions. Becoming a parent as a grandparent often compounds limited finances or fragile health.  All the normal roles a parent plays become more challenging in parental absence. Despite these difficulties, 2.7 million grandparents in the U.S. are stepping forward to raise our children. They’re preserving the child’s sense of family and saving the government over 23 billion dollars in potential foster care according to a 2007 study.

Grandparents answer the call of family and society.  They anchor generations with love and wisdom.  We often think of grandparents as needing our care but, in increasing numbers, they’re caring for our next generation! Grandparents, thank you for all you do.  Happy Grandparents Day!

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