Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children: Providing Services for Caregivers of All Ages (page 2)
According to the U.S. Census 2000, more than six million children across the country are living in households maintained by grandparents or other relatives.1 Currently, more than 2.4 million grandparents in the U.S. have taken primary responsibility for meeting the basic needs of their grandchildren.2 Although the age range of grandparent caregivers is broad, 71% percent of these grandparents are under 60 years old.3 Factors such as parental substance abuse, incarceration, HIV/AIDS, death, poverty, and even military deployments are causing growing numbers of grandparents and other relatives to step forward to keep families together.
The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) 4 provides the most comprehensive services to caregivers over 60 years old. Through the NFCSP, states are authorized to use up to 10% of program funds to provide supportive services to grandparents and other relatives over the age of 60 who are raising relatives’ children.5
The information presented in this fact sheet is intended to stimulate dialogue on the NFCSP and to encourage collaborative efforts in meeting the needs of all grandparent and other relative caregivers and the children in their care. This fact sheet will emphasize the need to expand the system of services to all ages of relative caregivers to address the unique challenges of caregivers under age 60. Furthermore, this fact sheet will highlight successful program models for all relative caregivers, including those under age 60.
Challenges for Relative Caregivers of All Ages
Relative caregivers raising children have a wide variety of service and support needs. Most caregivers do not expect to assume the care of a relative’s child. Lifestyles, homes, and financial resources may not be sufficient for assuming the responsibility of caring for children. Additionally, relative caregivers under age 60 may be raising children of their own. They may be employed or planning for retirement. Regardless of age, this unexpected responsibility may change the lives of relative caregivers dramatically.
Caregivers raising kin children face significant challenges. For example, many relative caregiver families do not have access to adequate housing. It is difficult for relative caregivers to obtain useful information and assistance on services that can help them. Further, relative caregivers with no legal relationship may have limited ability to access medical, educational, or financial services to meet children’s needs.
Physical and Mental Health of Caregivers- A study of relative caregivers receiving child-only Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grants revealed that relative caregivers have poorer health than their non-caregiving counterparts.6 On average, relative caregivers in their early 50s had the same level of physical health to that of a 70-year-old in the general non-caregiving population. Because 75% of the relative caregivers in the study were under 60 years old (with an average age of 52), the results may suggest that since the full group had such poor health, caregivers under 60 have abnormally poor health.
Vulnerability to Poverty- Regardless of age, grandparent-maintained families, with or without parents present, are more likely to live in poverty than parent-maintained families.7 Twenty-six percent (26%) of grandparents over 60 who are raising grandchild( ren) live in poverty, while (22%) of grandparents under 60 raising grandchildren live in poverty, despite the fact that they are over twice as likely to be working.
Potential Challenges for Caregivers Under Age 60- Relative caregivers under the age of 60 face several unique challenges. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of these caregivers are in the workforce, compared to 29% of those over 60.8 Because relative caregivers under 60 comprise the majority of working-caregivers, they may experience additional stress and require employer support, assistance in navigating social services, and help in accessing accurate information. Relative caregivers under age 60 may also spend their savings or retirement (time and money) to help care for children.
Services Available Through the NFCSP
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging (AoA) administers the NFCSP program and provides funds to the states. States in turn fund Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) to provide five categories of supportive services. Supportive services include:
- Information to caregivers about available services;
- Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to the services;
- Individual counseling, organization of support groups, caregiver training;
- Respite care; and
- Supplemental services to complement care provided by caregivers.9
Since NFCSP funded programs can only provide supportive services to caregivers over age 60, it is especially important for service organizations to be creative in piecing together resources to meet the needs of relative caregivers under age 60.
Need for Collaboration
Comprehensive support to relative caregivers can be provided through partnerships and collaborations, such as those between community service providers and AAAs. Many of the services provided for relative caregiver families require creative collaboration between and within the aging network and children and youth organizations.
By working through a variety of service providers in the aging network and the child welfare system, more families are likely to be identified and educated on services available to them. As providers consider programs and ways to serve caregivers, including those under age 60, it is important to remember that providing supportive services to caregivers is also a child welfare issue. Because the availability of resources, programs, and services varies from state-to-state, services providers must cooperate and creatively design and fund programs for relative caregivers of all ages.
The NFCSP is the largest source of Federal funding for services to caregivers. However, other public and private resources are available to serve the broadest spectrum of caregivers through collaboration. Potential collaborative partners include: Cooperative Extension Services, AARP, Departments of Child Welfare, State Boards of Education, Public Health, Bar Associations, Medical Societies, Medical Auxiliaries, youth organizations, Museum Programs, Head Start, and local school districts.
Funding and Programming Resources- The Brookdale Foundation’s Relatives As Parents Program (RAPP) is a comprehensive nationwide network of support groups providing high quality services to relative caregivers of all ages and their families. To accomplish this, RAPPs create collaborative partnerships with community organizations and other service systems including family services, child care, aging, education, legal, health care, mental health, cooperative extension services, and universities. For more information on the Brookdale Foundation RAPP grants, call 212-308-7355 or www.brookdalefoundation.org.
Reprinted with the permission of Generations United. © 2008 Generations United.
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