There are more than 2.5 million grandparents raising grandkids in the United States. To put this number in perspective, that's enough people to fill more than 66 Fenway Parks. And the incidence is rising, in Massachusetts the number of grandparents raising grandkids has increased by 30% across the past decade.
There are many reasons grandparents might take on this role, but one reason is due to increases in life expectancy. Grandparents are more likely to be alive to see their grandkids grow up and may be needed to help care for them for a longer period.
Another reason is the COVID-19 pandemic. With parents feeling the impact of the pandemic physically, emotionally and professionally, the caregiving role is often split or entirely reliant upon a grandparent. This leaves grandparents in a difficult situation as they try to adapt to online learning and juggle multiple schedules. After raising their children, such older adults may need physical and mental preparation and support by local services and communities to take on the caregiving role. This is easier said than done, though. Oftentimes there are not resources available that meet their specific situation or needs.
‘A whopping 61.7% of Massachusetts residents older than age 65 who live alone do not have enough income to cover basic expenses.’
Additionally, many older adults are on fixed incomes and may not have the financial resources to support their grandkids. With most grandparents raising grandkids informally or outside the foster care system, financial support can be challenging.
A whopping 61.7% of Massachusetts residents older than age 65 who live alone do not have enough income to cover basic expenses such as housing, food and healthcare. It is even more dire for older adults of color: 91% of Latinx, 78% of Asian American, and 72% of African American older adults living alone cannot cover basic expenses. Combined with the fact that grandparents often assume their caregiving role unexpectedly, costs can quickly increase.
Grandparents also may face a unique situation in their new role because of an adult child's struggles. Due to the opioid epidemic and the rise in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, grandparents may be raising their grandkids while simultaneously trying to support their adult children. This can put a strain on relationships and have severe impacts on overall community well-being. If one person is struggling, we are all struggling.
Considering all these challenges, where can someone find support? Below are some resources:
The Grandparents Raising Grandkids Resource Center
In December 2022, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) secured $1.2 million to fund the development of a Grandparents Raising Grandkids Resource Center and hire community health workers. This effort aims to provide culturally competent support for grandparents raising grandkids across Central Massachusetts. It will meet people where they are to provide support. This will be led by the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging, Inc. (CMAA), and will launch in May 2023. Contact us by email email@example.com for more information.
There are many support groups for grandparents raising grandkids, and more continue to develop. Local Area Agencies on Aging or Elder Affairs Offices can be a great starting point for finding these groups. It’s also possible, if none exists, to start one by partnering with a local organization.
SNAP is administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and depends upon income. SNAP benefits include:
- Monthly funds on an EBT card to buy food
- $40, $60 or $80 per month put back on an EBT card when using SNAP to buy local produce via the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP)
- SNAP Path to Work free education and training opportunities
- Free nutrition education classes
WIC (Women, Infants and Children)
Grandchildren younger than age 5 are eligible for WIC. This nutrition program provides healthy foods, nutrition education and other services at no cost. Those receiving WIC may be eligible for discounts on other resources, too. Call 1-800-942-1007 to learn more.
For grandparents raising grandkids, remaining connected to community members, including the local school system and other such key organizations, is very important.
Providing equitable resources for grandparents raising grandkids is critical in strengthening our communities. It is time to take action and help one another.
“There have always been challenges with grandparents raising their grandkids or grandchildren. COVID-19 highlighted the need to support grandfamilies more substantially. When that need was evident, CMAA partnered with some foundations to provide much-needed support,” said Dr. Moses S. Dixon, President & CEO of the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging.
We encourage grandparents raising grandkids who are looking for help or interested in learning more to get in touch. Visit www.seniorconnection.org and follow us on social media at @cmaaging for the latest.
Amber Krasinski, MA, is the head of communications for the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging, Inc.