Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Grandparents Acting As Parents

Here is a student paper offered without any commentary by me. 

Since 1980, the number of children living with and being cared for by their grandparents has been increasing. “Based on the 1996 Census data, 4 million (6%) were living in grandparent(s)’s home. Over one-third of these children, or 1.4 million, were being raised solely by their grandparents, without the presence of either parent”. (www.ueex.ed/ces/gprg/article.html.)

The reasons for grandparents acting as parents vary. Some of the reasons are: divorce, substance abuse, child abuse and/or neglect, abandonment, teenage pregnancy, death, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, incarceration and mental health problems. Each and every one of the above listed reasons is an ongoing social problem and interrelates to numerous other social problems. For instance, divorce, teenage pregnancy. Divorce for a couple with children, many times results in the woman having custody of the children (or teenager pregnancy) with little or no child support, which then leads to poverty, no insurance, possible homelessness and to social welfare programs (more specifically TANF). Mental Health and substance abuse many times leads to unemployment. Unemployment leads to poverty and possible homelessness.

The welfare services available, in the past, to assist these grandparents were the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and foster care stipends. The Personal responsibility and Work Opportunity Act was passed 1996 by the United State Congress. It replaced AFDC with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs. According to AARP (1997), these new programs are different from the AFDC. (www.ueex.ed/ces/gprg/article.html.) Some of the requirements do not apply to the grandparents. Such as, the Work Requirements. Many of the grandparents, depending on age are already working, but do not make enough to support a family any longer. Or the grandparent(s) are retired and on a fixed income. There are legal custody requirements in some states. Not all of the grandparents caring for their grandchildren are the legal custodial parents. Although some of the requirements can be waived through the use of “child only” grants states are not required to continue to offer these grants under TANF, some still do.

Some states refuse foster care financial assistance for children placed with relatives, which can be a huge financial burden as well as placing the grandparent(s) and child(ren) at a poverty level or maybe just above it. Welfare reforms can affect an already precarious existence for these families.

The effects on the children in the homes of grandparents have not yet been ascertained as beneficial or not. Studies are still being conducted.

Regardless of the reason(s) for this trend in grandparents raising grandchildren, we should all be concerned with the social ills creating these circumstances, because we are all affected by it.

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