Chances are if you are reading this post, you ARE a grandmother or grandfather raising your grandchildren and that includes those grandparents whose parents live in your home with you. It isn't easy, there is no quick cure for this overwhelming societal change, but I want to shed some help and some hope on the subject.
Hi, my name is Jean, my grandchildren call me Ranny and I quilt, hence the name of my blog and most days you can read my rambling musings here. However, over the last month or so, God has awakened my eyes to see this situation in a way, I had never given thought to in the past.
I am NOT an attorney, I do NOT dispense legal advice. I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona and now in Washington and I am much more familiar with Arizona's guardianship process than Washingtons, that doesn't mean I can help, but I can guide you in the right direction.
I wish there were more answers out in the internet community, but sadly, there isn't and I feel, we all need to lobby congress to get this changed. I also strongly feel there should be the same laws in all states to make it easier on grandparents and grandchildren, but there isn't.
According to AARP (whose information is almost 3 years old at this time) in 2007, 'there were approximately 4.5 million children living in 2.4 million homes being cared for by grandparents and 1.5 million other relative homes and this included parents living with the children and grandparents.' (Taken from the World Wide Web, 7/24/2009. http://www.grandfactsheets.org/state_fact_sheets.cfm).
With these kinds of numbers, we as grandparents should be able to lobby congress for more money to help us out and for quick intervention when it is shown it is needed. To many of the courts award the children back to parents without the parents proving they have changed. How many children have died at the hands of its parents only to later find out numerous attempts by the grandparents were denied by the courts in a guardianship hearing.
First, grandparents raising their grandchildren will find out depending on which state you live in, you may qualify for free or reduced childcare if you work or are disabled, you may qualify for state medical for the grandchildren and you may be able to receive a small monthly stipend to help you financially.
I say small, because in Arizona, grandparents receive around $100 per child, however, if you are a Foster Parent, you receive a bit over $1000 per month. Caring for your grandchildren and foster parenting are not considered to be the same thing and in many states the laws are so stringent for foster parents, that to even take a child on a family vacation requires filling out paperwork and being granted permission. As a legal guardian, you don't need all that extra work.
Raising your grandchildren can become both a blessing and a time of extreme hardship and no grandchild should ever have to be turned out to strangers because a grandparent simply cannot afford to take care of their grandchild. If however, the grandparents have criminal records for child neglect, child abuse, drug abuse, etc., the states should do everything in its powers to find a responsible relative that CAN and WILL care for these children.
On the other side of the fence, if your grandchildren have serious mental issues, have been known to be physically violent, mentally abusive, etc.. I would recommend a grandparent take serious precautions and speak to professionals before allowing that child into their home.
I have heard of children who urinate and soil floors, bedding, etc. whenever and wherever they choose, their abuse by others has left them so scarred, this is the way they retaliate. Girls that are teens and having sex just to feel loved, children who sneak out of the house at night, come home drunk or high, one must logically determine if the best interest of all parties is with the grandparents or unfortunately in foster care. It is not up to me to make that decision for you, you must be willing to look at the total picture.
Raising your grandchildren can become a mixed bag of tricks as you balance on the tighttope trying to figure out where your boundaries are at now that you have custody. When you take on your grandchildren, you no longer are a grandparent, your role has become blurred between grandparenting and parenting. These children can no longer be spoiled and sent back home, they now live with you and you MUST set rules and guidelines.
Be prepared that some of these children have been abused and seen things most adults will never see and your grandchild may need psychological counseling or housing. Remember, you aren't raising your grandchildren because their parents are around...you may be raising them due to death, prison term, drugs, abuse, etc.
As a substitute teacher, I have seen the students who come from abusive backgrounds and for the most part, these are the kids who have a blank stare in their eyes, don't want to listen, follow rules and have little to no friends. Some of these children are already so bitter and skewed, they have turned to drugs, alcohol, sex, abusive treatment of others and hardened. These are the children you must realize will not be the 'easy' ones to care for. These children don't want to be saved, they have been hurt and it will take a lot of effort on everyones part to take away those walls.
Is your home large enough to accomodate the grandchildren? If you have little ones, you can usually place them in another bedroom, at the foot of your bed, in a large closet you have converted to a room (with the door removed for safety). When one of my granddaughters was born a few weeks early, we did not have a crib, so when she came home, my husband removed one of the large drawers from his dresser, put in a small bumper pad, layered his tee shirts on the bottom and placed her quilt in it. It served its purpose until we were able to purchase a crib.
Do you have a vehicle large enough? Can you afford a new vehicle of used vehicle? What about car seats? They run between $75 and $500 depending on where you buy them and how much you choose to spend. **Many hospitals, child care agencies, fire departments, etc. offer free car seats, call around and see what is available.
When we recieved our grandchildren, we had to purchase a van, car seats, high chair, crib, etc. we were blessed by many people who came to our rescue and provided the many things we needed. DO NOT be afraid to let other people know you need some help! You cannot do this on your own without help.
- Check into your employer and see what they say about FMLA, some companies pay you for a few days, a few weeks and still others do not pay you at all.
- If you need a larger vehicle, let your local churches know, local auto dealers, etc. We were able to purchase a used van because the owner of the local used car dealership was a Christian and upon learning why we needed a new vehicle, did not require a down payment & they paid all the fee's for us.P
- Put your chemicals and medications up and away from children. I had to clean out under my kitchen and bathroom sinks and medications were kept up high. You can use a lock box or any other thing that can't be easily accessed by a child.
- Lock up the liquor!
- Find a grandparent support group in your area and if there isn't one, start one up. Request from a local church, hospital, nursing home, social services agency if you can borrow a large meeting room once a month to start this project up.
- Ask the local newspaper if they would be willing to give you a free or reduced fee in advertising the meetings.
- Make up some brochures and place them in doctors offices, school offices, any place that will give you permission that is open to adults and children.
- If you already have a grandparenting group and it seems pretty strong, move it up a step by having a large yard sale and using the proceeds to pay for a grandparent/grandchildrens day at a local water park, zoo, ball park, etc.
There are more agencies and options out there now than there was 5 years ago when we recieved guardianship of our grandchildren and yet, there sometimes isn't enough information.
I am NOT saying this will be easy, it will not. We were empty nesters, spending weeks at NASCAR races, riding our Harley, spending time together, saving for our retirement. In the blink of a telephone call, we turned my office into a bedroom, we child proofed our home, we had to purchase diapers, locate child care, give up many things and we had to humble ourselves and ask for help!
Not everyone can or is willing to take in their grandchildren. I can't speak for them, all I know is that during the past month of struggling with a spinal fusion, being away from my grandchildren while I am recovering and having to be readmitted for emergency surgery, if it wasn't for my beautiful grandchildren, I would have gone crazy. They are my joy, my sunshine and my comedic relief.
Some grandparents can't deal with younger children, can't afford to take their grandchildren in or have fear the parents will plague them with constant harassment. I do not know why some of us take them in willingly and others refuse, but I am not here to judge, I am here to offer you solace, kind words and let you know to give this thought before jumping in.
Who knew at 53 years old, I would become an assistant girl scout leader? Who knew after holding a job for 12+ years, I would retire early and move out of state? Who knew we would be hosting slumber parties again, attending teachers conferences again, soccer games, etc.? It isn't easy, but the trick is to line up all your ducks in a row and stick to a schedule!
Don't become overwhelmed by doing everything your grandchild wants you to do, allow time for yourself during the day, for your friends and spouse. Do not fill your days up with volunteering as a class mom, going on every field trip, enrolling them in dance, sports, music lessons. If you do everything, sooner or later, you will find yourself exhausted. Take it easy and take time to adjust, then you can decide which things you have time for and which ones you do not have time for.
As a disclaimer here, I want you to know that NOT everyone will want or need state aid, but under the TANF laws, it is available to you if you are willing to help the child support division in locating your child to have them pay the state. Money isn't what this is about, but I can tell you, I have seen grandparents on a fixed retirement income take on 2 or more grandchildren and they will give up necessary medications to see their grandchildren have new shoes or clothes.
Trust me, when you are buying disposable diapers for 2 toddlers, clothing, special dietary requirements, every penny and nickle count. Grandparents are not going to get rich off the money the state helps them out with. But for some grandparents it makes a difference!
This is enough information for now, check back soon, my next topic will be on our health!