by Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA
Q: My husband and I recently obtained guardianship of our 4-year-old grandson. This will be a new chapter in our lives, and we are looking for resources to help us. What do you suggest?
A: Grandparents play a significant role in today’s family unit. When a child is no longer able to live with the biological parent or legal guardian, a grandparent can provide stability and family values. Typically, grandparents have been out of the parenting role for many years, and now must adapt to take on that role with a new generation.
Many grandparents, like you, are able to provide this stability, but need some help. According to AARP, more than 5.8 million children are living in the home with a grandparent. Many of these grandparents take on the sole responsibility of the child and are unaware of legal rights, benefits and support services available to help them. With the prevalence and importance of this emerging trend, a national partnership was formed among AARP, Brookdale Foundation Group, Casey Family Programs, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund and Generations United to create “GrandFacts: State Fact Sheets for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children.” You can access this information, which is listed by state, at:
In the state of North Carolina, 89,622 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren living with them. GrandFacts provides valuable resources and contact information for educational programs, support groups, legal and financial assistance, and advocacy groups that are available to provide help.
GrandFacts is a great starting point to identify the local resources that can directly impact your experience with your grandson and empower you to take on this new role. If you are not computer savvy, feel free to contact me, and I am happy to mail you a copy of the fact sheet.
There are also several books now available that can provide guidance. Grandparents.com features “The Sacred Work of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,” by Elaine K. Williams. She interviewed more than 60 grandmothers and grandfathers who are raising grandchildren and wrote this book to share their experiences. Another perspective is “Raising Our Children’s Children” by Deborah Doucette, which is based on her personal experience raising a grandchild.
As you enter this new chapter in your lives, I applaud you for your efforts and encourage you to connect with a support group in your area. Sharing your experience with others and learning from those who have been in similar situations can be very valuable. Your grandson will have an adjustment period as well, so seek out all of the available community resources to make this a positive experience for all of you.
Readers may send questions to Natt, an Aging Life CareTM Professional, certified senior advisor and CEO of Aging Outreach Services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.