Kinship Care Program: Contact Jenise Proctor, 770-503-3336.
Once their own children have left the nest, most parents don’t plan on raising any more offspring, especially not in their senior years.
But that’s exactly the situation many older adults find themselves in. According to the results from the American Community survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, 46.2 percent of surveyed grandparents in Georgia are living with and responsible for their grandchildren.
The bureau conducts the survey annually to determine how the fabric of American neighborhoods is evolving. Last year’s total is up slightly from the 44.2 percent of surveyed grandparents who were responsible for their grandchildren’s well-being.
Larry and Blythe Lambert are among those seniors who have found themselves with a second round of parenting. The couple is raising their high school-aged granddaughter.
“Dealing with teenagers isn’t as easy as I thought it would be,” said Larry Lambert, during a recent Kinship Care group meeting. “Especially not girls.”
The Kinship Care Program is offered through the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center to help family members deal with such situations.
“We offer group support to caregivers that are raising their relatives. The meetings give the caregivers the opportunity to share their experiences and discuss what has worked for them and what hasn’t,” said Jenise Proctor, community service center coordinator of family services. “We see many different types of caregivers at our meetings, but the majority tend to be grandparents.”
In Hall County, the number of surveyed grandparents who are the caretakers for their grandchildren jumped dramatically from 2007 to 2008. Two years ago, only 25.3 percent of surveyed grandparents were raising their children’s offspring. Last year, that figure jumped to 43.8 percent.
“We have definitely seen an increase in the numbers of grandparents raising their grandchildren in our school system,” said Carol Pitts, Hall County Schools System social worker. “As a school social worker, part of my job is to work with parents on a variety of issues concerning their children, so I know firsthand that it is not uncommon to speak with grandma or grandpa instead of talking to mom or dad.”
According to Pitts, there isn’t one particular reason why some children end up being raised by their grandparents.
“Often times, parents are financially unable to care for (their children) or they are involved with the legal system in some way,” she said. “Sometimes, they are divorced and ‘share’ parenting responsibilities with the grandparents.
“This issue has become so prevalent that we now have a law in Georgia, Senate Bill 88, that allows grandparents to enroll their grandchildren in school without a lot of the red tape that we used to have to make them (go through).”
Not only has the rate of grandparents caring for their grandchildren increased, so has the length of time that they retain primary custody. In Hall County, the number of grandparents who have been rearing their grandchildren for more than five years increased from 9.9 percent in 2007 to 16.6 percent in 2008.
Depending on the circumstances, the transition to living with their grandparents can be a difficult one for some children.
“The impact on the children can be difficult and heartbreaking at times,” Pitts said. “When mom or dad reappear for a few days and then disappear it is hard for a child to understand why this may be happening. It can also be hard on grandparents who may be living on very little income to financially support the additional children.
“It is also difficult for some grandparents who went to school years ago before the advanced math classes and other subjects that are being taught to understand how to help older children with their homework. We also have to spend more time educating them on what is required to pass a grade level or to be able to graduate. It’s not that they don’t want to do what’s best; I just find that it is a whole new learning curve for them.”