Parenting: Round Two

Helping grandparent caregivers adjust to a new lifestyle

| September 5, 2007

When biological parents are unable to give their children the care they need, parents often look to their own parents to fill in as primary caregivers. Drug abuse, death, divorce, and military service have made these 'grandfamilies' an increasingly common phenomenon. According to Molly M. Ginty of Women's eNews, the number families headed by grandparents in the United States has reached 5.8 million, a 60 percent increase from 1990.?

Unfortunately, many grandparents aren't in the financial position to take on these roles. To ease some of the burden, Congress recently introduced the Kinship Caregiver Support Act, which would extend government subsidies available to foster families to grandparents caring for grandchildren. Citing statistics from the Washington-based nonprofit Generations United, Ginty notes that grandfamilies save the foster care system an estimated $6.5 billion each year. Less quantifiable is the fact that grandparents also provide their grandchildren with a nurturing upbringing in a familiar and familial setting.

While the federal government struggles to change its policies for the better, a few organizations aren't waiting for legislators to start improving the lives of grandfamilies.? One such organization, the ?Next American City reported in 2005, is the GrandFamilies House in Dorchester, Massachusetts. With its 26-apartment housing facility, the GrandFamilies House created a community where grandfamilies can offer community, strength, and peer companionship to each other. According to a 1999 article from Peacework Magazine, the house was designed as a model for other similar housing setups, catering to the needs of both the elderly and the very young.

Similar homes are currently being planned in Chicago, New York City, and Cleveland, the ChicagoTribune reports. The complexes are designed to combine amenities for the elderly, such as shower hand rails, with services for children, like after-school mentoring. The intergenerational environment is designed to give a strong support system to grandparents raising children, who often feel isolated and reluctant to ask for help in other housing communities. 'Seniors have needs and kids have needs,' notes Patricia Abrams, who is developing a 'grandfamily building' in Chicago. 'But they all need a supportive environment.'


Go there>> Grandmothers Strain Resources to Raise Grandkids

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