The Resounding Resiliency of Grandfamilies

A report was recently published by Generations United examining the plight of grandfamilies, defined as “grandparents, or other relatives of similar or older generations, [who] are the primary caregivers for children of their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews or grandchildren.” There are over 2.7 million grandfamilies nationwide and, as the report illustrates, these families are among are most vulnerable members of society, with 21% living below the poverty line and 25% including a household member with a disability.

The poverty these families experience as they attempt to hold their families together is difficult to overcome, as many of these grandparents were retired when the child (or, as is more often the case, children) came into their home. Even among those that were still employed, many end up losing their job or having to cut back on hours in order to accommodate having kids at home. A large number of grandparents report having expenses exceed the money coming in each month and even those who are able to make ends meet, state that an unforeseen expense or disruption in income could be detrimental to their finances. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research completed a study concerning grandparents raising grandchildren using the elder index analyzing their economic ability to provide for themselves. The study found that 16,000 families where the grandparents where the primary caregiver or their grandchildren, 9,000 had incomes below the elder index’s adequate living standard for California.

Generations United recommends policy changes in line with what the Step Up Coalition has been pursuing for the last several years including removing barriers to eligibility for benefits and services and/or creating more programs to assist grandparents to earn more income. While we have had success in chipping away at the financial disparities faced by our grandfamilies here in California, our fight will continue this coming year, both in California and at the federal level.