When parents are absent or unable to raise their children, grandparents are often the ones who step in. Raising a second generation brings many rewards, including the fulfillment of giving your grandkids a sense of security, developing a deeper relationship, and keeping the family together. It also comes with many challenges. No matter how much you love your grandkids, taking them into your home requires major adjustments. But with the right guidelines and support, a grandparent can make a real difference in the life of a grandchild.
According to Generations United, about 21 percent of the 2.7 million grandparents raising grandchildren are living below the poverty line. While 58 percent of them are still in the workforce in full or part time jobs, 39 percent are over 60 and 25 percent have a disability. These Grandfamilies often face unique, additional challenges that set them apart:
- Children often come to them unexpectedly with little or no time to plan
- They are suddenly faced with the need to find ways to increase their income in later life
- Grandparents often forgo their own financial dreams to invest in their grandchildren
Here are four invaluable resources every grandparent raising grandchildren should know about.
What Documents Do You Need?
AARP has some good guidelines for managing documents for a grandparent raising a grandchild. (www.aarp.org). One suggestion is that you make a binder or folder for all of those important papers. These documents include:
- Birth certificates, death certificates (if your grandchild’s parent is deceased)
- Marriage records or divorce decrees for their parents
- Social Security cards (or at least the numbers) for the children
- Medical and dental records
- Power of Attorney, custody, guardianship, adoption papers
- Consent forms signed by parents for medical care and education
- School papers, such as report cards, evaluations, registration, etc.
- Proof of your grandchild’s income and assets (child support payments, trust fund, etc.)
- Proof of your income and assets if you plan to apply for public benefits
- Citizenship papers for you or for your grandchildren
- Military papers for you or their parents
Benefits available to grandparents vary from state to state. Resources may include:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security
- Dependents Benefits
A number of organizations (AARP, The Brookdale Foundation Group, Casey Family Programs, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, and Generations United) have partnered to produce state and national fact sheets for grandparents and other relatives raising children. The state fact sheets include state – specific data and programs as well as information about:
- foster care
- public benefits
- educational assistance and
- state laws.
Visit www.grandfactsheets.org to find this and all GrandFacts state fact sheets.
Tips for Raising Grandchildren
HelpGuide.org has some invaluable tips for raising grandchildren:
- Acknowledge Your Feelings – The prospect of raising grandchildren is bound to trigger a range of emotions.
- Take care of yourself – A healthy you means healthy grandchildren.
- Your Grandkids Will Have Mixed Feelings Too – Your grandkids’ feelings may come out in many ways . . . anger/aggression/withdrawal.
- Focus On Creating A Stable Environment – Establish a routine.
- Encourage open and honest communication – Plan regular times when you sit and talk to each other.
- Encourage Contact With Parents – Make visits with parents as smooth as possible.