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Wednesday, November 28, 2007 Affordable Housing, Grandparents, Utah's Tax Structure   Volume 3 Issue 11  
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Grandparents as Caregivers
Executive Summary
by Tricia Jack, MPA, CPPA Research Associate

Introduction

This Executive Summary is based on the in-depth report “Grandparents as Caregivers in Utah” by Cathy Chambless, Ph.D. and Tricia Jack, MPA. Cathy and Tricia are both Research Associates at the Center for Public Policy and Administration, University of Utah.

Data from the U.S. Census show that the phenomenon of grandparents raising grandchildren is increasing. In 2000, 2.4 million grandparents were raising their grandchildren in the U.S., representing an approximate 30% increase from 1990 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). In Utah, the 2006 American Community Survey estimated that approximately 15,652 grandparents had primary responsibility for their grandchildren’s care (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006).

Reasons for the Growth in Grandparents Caring for Grandchildren

There are many reasons for the growth in grandparents as caregivers, and there are both demographic and public health factors at play. Negative stressors affecting parents include: increasing frequencies of divorce and single parenting, rising rates of substance abuse, AIDS and other public health problems, poverty, and incarceration of parents. Mental illness or other disability of the parent or the child are also reasons why children end up being cared for by grandparents.

In Utah, most of the increase in grandparents caring for grandchildren is related to the increase of methamphetamine use among parents. Utah Division of Child and Family Services data show that there were 12,579 reported victims of abuse and neglect handled by Child and Family Services in Utah in the fiscal year 2004. Drug abuse was a contributing factor for the neglect, abuse or dependency that led to removal for over 1,000 of the 1,894 children who were placed out of their homes (Grandfamilies, 2007).

The Impact of Kinship Care

A growing body of research shows that children who are placed with relatives do better than those who are placed with non-relatives. Studies have shown that relative placements last longer and are more permanent and that children are able to live within stable, safe and healthy families (Generations United, 2007; Sellick, 2006). Other research reveals that there are intangible benefits for children such as a sense of belonging and an ability to maintain sibling relationships (Testa, Bruhn and Helton as cited in Generations United, 2007).

Challenges for Grandparents

Kinship families have very different needs from non-relative foster care families, partly because the family dynamics are different when the caregiver has a long-standing history and relationship with the child’s parent(s). Many custodial grandparents experience disappointment, resentment and feelings of being taken advantage of by their son or daughter (Shore & Hayslip as cited in Hayslip & Kaminski, 2005). Some parents are manipulative and disrespectful to the caregivers, causing them stress and anxiety. Grandparents may also find themselves caught in between parents and children.

These factors can cause a great deal of tension for grandparents. Studies have shown that grandparents raising their grandchildren have higher rates of depression than those of their age that are not raising grandchildren (DeToledo & Brown; Kornhaber; Musil, as cited in Hayslip & Kaminski, 205).

Grandparents caring for grandchildren can also experience social isolation, inadequate support, financial strains, and difficulty with legal issues and obtaining medical care for their grandchildren (Wohl, et al; Kelly, as cited in Hayslip & Kaminski, 2005).

Utah’s Current Policies on Kinship Care

In Utah, the Division of Child and Family Services is required to consider kin first when seeking out-of-home placement for a child. Utah is currently encouraging kin caregivers to complete the foster care licensing process (Betournay, 2007). This allows the state to provide them with more benefits. If grandparents want to become licensed, they have to apply and pass the same requirements as any other foster parents.

Resources

A large majority of the 15,652 Utah grandparents, who are primary caregivers for their grandchildren, do not receive any government assistance. If relative caregivers choose not to become licensed they can expect far less assistance from various public programs. While the Division of Child and Family Services makes some of the services available, the limited capacity of the system makes it difficult to serve relative caregivers who need extra support.

Resources typically needed by kinship caregivers include financial, health care, counseling and training. The paper examines each of these in the State of Utah.

Conclusion

On the surface it may seem a simple solution to place children with grandparents when their parents can no longer look after them. However, without social, emotional and/or financial support, grandparents and other relatives may not be prepared or able to care for children.

There are several policy alternatives that are being successfully implemented in other states which may be options for Utah. These include addressing the unique needs of kinship families through additional resources and support, improving access to information, improving application processes for assistance and increasing the visibility of kinship groups.

More detailed information about these policy alternatives can be found in the full report by the Center for Public Policy and Administration.

References

Betournay, D. (2007). Personal Communication.

Hayslip, B and Kaminski, P.L. (2005). Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren:
A Review of the Literature and Suggestions for Practice. The Gerontologist. 45(2), pp. 262-269.

Generations United (2007). Time for Reform: Support Relatives in Providing Foster Care and Permanent Families for Children. Retrieved on July 11, 2007 from ipath.gu.org/documents/A0//Time_for_Reform.pdf

Grandfamilies: A relatives as parents support program. (2007). Fact Sheet. Retrieved on 9/12/2007 from
www.cssutah.org/pageview.aspx?menu=4614&id=16784

Sellick, C. (2006). From Famine to Feast: A Review of Foster Care Literature. Children and Society. 2, 67-74.

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (2006) Selected special characteristics.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). Grandparents Living with Grandchildren.


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