Raising Grandkids
The Club Nobody Wanted To Join

grandma raising her grandsonRaising grandkids is not the dream job of retirees, but you may find yourself doing it.

In Canada, at least 65,000 children are being raised by grandparents, usually single grandmothers. These grandparents are often on a pension and living below the poverty line. Many live on less than $15,000/year.

When grandparents have to step up, it is often because there are major problems in the child's family. In North America, most of these kids suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or learning problems. In Africa, they may have AIDS. These are not easy children to deal with no matter what your age is.

The irony is that if the kids were in foster care, the government would be paying a premium to their care givers, but because the care givers are family members, there is no such support. Grandparents raising grandkids face serious poverty in retirement and have the added worry of wondering how to continue care for as long as the grandkids need it.

There are bright lights on the horizon.

Government steps up

In Ontario, proposed legislation will give grandparents who raise their grandchildren some welcome financial support. It's not enough and it's not in place yet, but it is a start.

Since the grandparents are saving the government millions of dollars each year in foster care, it is only fair that the grandparents receive some assistance.

The church helps out

In the Bronx, Presbyterian Senior Services has created the Grandparents Family Apartment, a haven for grandparents and their charges where they have lower cost, safe housing and the support of others who understand.

Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign

Stephen Lewis, who has been Deputy Director of UNICEF and a special envoy to the UN for HIV/AIDS in Africa, created a foundation to support the grandmothers in Africa who are raising AIDS orphans in grinding poverty.

Do it yourself help

Betty Cornelius, who was raising a grandchild, decided to form a support network. CanGrands is open to grandparents and others, like aunts, who are raising family members. CanGrands is growing as associated groups start up across the country. It is called "the club no one wanted to join," even though members would do it all again.

How to help

Worldwide, grandparents are raising grandkids. Whether or not you are in that situation, this concerns us all.

Call your local children's aid ministry or department and ask what help is available to grandparents raising grandchildren. Write letters to the appropriate government members to voice your concerns.

Volunteer for or financially support organizations like Grandmothers to Grandmothers.

Keep your eyes open. If you know of someone in this situation, do what you can to help. Can you offer free babysitting? Can you pay for special lessons? Can you invite the family along on an outing? Can you lend a listening ear?

It used to take a village to raise a child. Now it takes a global village. Our help with these kids will make all the difference.

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