Addiction and the Rise of Grand-Families

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Most of the women I came into contact with in prison were mothers of young children and, oftentimes, their significant others were also locked up. After hearing their stories, I can remember thinking to myself Who’s taking care of the kids?

It turned out that, while some kids had been taken into foster care, a large number of them ended up in the custody of their grandparents. This begged the question: Just how prevalent is the trend of grandparents parenting?

Grandparents Turned Parents…Again

Interestingly enough, over the last 30 years, the number of grandparents raising children in the United States, forming what’s considered a “grand-family,” has increased by leaps and bounds.

According to a 2014 Generations United report, just over 2.4 million children are being brought up by grandparents, other relatives or close family friends without the children’s parents in the home. Shockingly, these children represent three percent of all children in the United States.

Research shows grand-families come together for a variety of reasons – in addition to incarceration, unemployment, substance abuse problems, deportation and domestic violence all play a part in this family unit’s creation.

The Toll of Raising Kids

While most grandparents say they are happy to help, they face a wide array of challenges that can jeopardize their current state of living.

For many, taking on additional children is a situation that was thrust upon them, causing financial expenses they’re decidedly unprepared for. Having extra mouths to feed and bodies to clothe is expensive; many grandparents also find that they don’t have suitable housing for young children. The money they should be saving for retirement, then, goes to their grandchildren instead, which can cause serious economic consequences down the road.

Being someone’s primary caregiver at an advanced age also takes an emotional toll. According to Generations United, approximately 58 percent of grandparents are still working, so trying to juggle work-life with child-rearing can be overwhelming and stressful. It can also interfere with adult activities, such as going out with friends or traveling.

The Better Alternative

Despite the challenges, research confirms that children fare better in the custody of older relatives when compared to foster or non-relative care. Children raised by grandparents generally have more stability, are more likely to maintain connections with siblings and are more apt to preserve their cultural heritage.

Grandparents also experience benefits, such as having an increased sense of purpose in life and an added dose of joy to their daily routines.

Additional Reading:   The “F” Word and its Effect on Relapse
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