Q: A neighbor of mine recently was awarded custody of her grandchildren. For numerous reasons, the children’s parents are not involved in their care nor will they be allowed to in the future. My neighbor refused to allow the children to be put in the foster care system. She is a loving, devoted grandparent but I sense she is sometimes overwhelmed with the responsibility. Another neighbor suggested your agency might be able to offer some assistance. Is this something you do?
A: The 2000 Census found 2.4 million grandparents had assumed the responsibility for raising their grandchildren. The numbers of these kinship families have been on the increase as each year passes.
Grandparents find themselves in this new caregiving role when the parent/parents death, incarceration, drug/alcohol dependency, abandonment, or abuse/neglect puts the child at risk. While a grandparent may willingly enter into this new relationship it can be both rewarding and challenging.
It is essential for the grandparent to be able to provide a safe, nurturing and stable home environment for their grandchildren. In some instances the grandparent may be able to function totally independent and the children will thrive in this new arrangement.
For other grandparents they may require support and assistance on an immediate or ongoing basis. It is in everyone’s best interest to insure a successful outcome.
Through the Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP), a grandparent can work with a highly-trained professional to provide them with information regarding resources available, someone to lend an ear and helping hand along the way.
The grandparent may be in need of financial assistance, could benefit from participation in support groups where they can learn from other grandparents in a similar situation or require resources regarding education for the grandchildren.
The current pandemic has created additional dilemmas for these families. It may be a real challenge keeping the children engaged while primarily being confined to their immediate home/yard and unable to be with other children their age.
Grandparents may not be equipped to assist in home schooling or address the emotional needs of a child. Grandparents also need to be encouraged to take care of themselves during this unsettling time.
In order to receive assistance the grandparent must be 55 years of age or older and have legal custody of the grandchild.
Encourage your neighbor to call 1-800-892-0890 and speak with the FCSP facilitator. There is also a wealth of information on the internet. The following are helpful websites: The Grandparents Commission in Massachusetts, massgrg.com; Generations United, gu.org; Grand Families Guide, aarp.org/relationships/friends-family/info.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available to offer assistance. Call 1-800-892-0890 (for the 23 cities and towns of the Merrimack Valley) or 978-750-4540 (for the 5 towns in the North Shore).
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.