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Grandparent Programs

by Debbie Reese



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The Many Faces of Grandparenting

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Raising our Kids


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The Many Faces of Grandparenting

"My daughter is not able to care for her children; I've been caring for them for several years now." "My son and his family live two blocks away, but I almost never see my grandchildren." "My son moved his family to another state to take a job, and I hardly ever see my grandchildren." "I am providing child care for my grandchildren so their parents can work."

Grandparents can feel overwhelmed or ignored, depending on the role they play in their grandchildren's lives. In today's society, an increasing number of grandparents find themselves responsible for raising their children's children. There are many reasons for this trend, including death of the parents, parental abandonment, drug-related prison terms, or mental illness.

According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau (1998), 4 million children (6% of all children) were living in their grandparents' homes in 1996. Of that number, 1.4 million did not have a parent also living in the home, which means that these children's grandparents were solely responsible for parenting their grandchildren.

When grandparents suddenly find themselves raising their grandchildren, many report feeling alone, bewildered, and unsure of how to begin. To meet the needs of grandparents raising their grandchildren, programs, organizations, and support groups have been developed and are available across the country. These organizations provide many resources, ranging from legal information to coping skills.

In 1993, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) opened the Grandparent Information Center to provide grandparent caregivers with information on resources and services, and referrals to grandparent support groups. Grandparents and great-grandparents who contact the Center range in age from their 30s to their 70s (and older), with the most frequent age range being 50- to 60-years-old. Half of all the grandparents who contacted the Center work, but many are on a fixed income (Woodworth, 1995).

In New York, grandparents can turn to "Grandparents Reaching Out (GRO)." Mildred Horn, founder and president of GRO, arranges for guest speakers and organizes social events. She is also planning a group therapy program for grandchildren. At social events, members of GRO are able to help each other through difficult problems based on their own experiences. GRO is also active in legislative issues related to grandparents.

Not all grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Many do not live anywhere near their grandchildren and must work at maintaining a long-distance relationship. For the last 12 years, the Foundation for Grandparenting, based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has been running "Grandparent Grandchildren Summer Camp" during the summer. Grandparent(s) and their grandchild (or grandchildren) spend a week together at a camp in New York, engaging in activities such as hiking and boating. The camp founder, Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, brings grandparents together each day to discuss grandparenting issues, such as distance and divorce. Kornhaber finds that bringing the grandparent and grandchildren together in a natural, outdoor setting provides a powerful opportunity for them to get to know each other and form a lasting bond.

Many resources are available to help grandparents who are providing child care for their grandchildren. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Ann Brown, Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, recently put together a brochure titled "A Grandparents' Guide for Family Nurturing and Safety." The full text of the brochure can be viewed on the World Wide Web at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/grand/grand.htm. It includes many tips for grandparents, including:

  • Establish a weekly time for the grandparent and grandchild to talk over the telephone. Parents can encourage the child to give the grandparent one "news" item to get them started.
  • Arrange to do something special with each grandchild on an individual basis. Keep in mind each child's individual interests as you plan these events.
  • Make your home child safe for your grandchildren, keeping in mind the different ages of the children. A home that has been child-proofed for an infant may not be safe for a toddler.

Many additional resources for grandparents available on the Internet as well as in bookstores and libraries are listed below.

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Books

de Toledo, Sylvie; Brown, Deborah Edler. (1995). Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family. New York: Guilford Publications. ISBN: 1-57230-020-5. ED393549

Doucette-Dudman, Deborah; LaCure, Jeffrey R. (1996). Raising Our Children's Children. Minneapolis, MN: Fairview Press. ISBN: 0-925190-91-8. ED397994

Takas, Marianne. (1995). Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Guide to Finding Help and Hope. New York: Brookdale Foundation. Available from: National Foster Parent Association, Inc., 9 Dartman Dr., Crystal Lake, IL 60014 ($3 for first copy, $1 each additional copy). ED394712

Publications cited with an ED number are cited in the ERIC database. Most documents are available in ERIC microfiche collections at more than 1,000 locations worldwide and can be ordered through EDRS: 800-443-ERIC. Journal articles are available from the original journal, interlibrary loan services, or article reproduction clearinghouses such as UnCover (800-787-7070), UMI (800-732-0616), or ISI (800-523-1850).

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Newsletters

AGAST Grandparent Information newsletter. AGAST is the Alliance of Grandparents Against SIDS Tragedy. To obtain a newsletter, call 800-793-SIDS and leave your name and address.

Grandparents Journal. Sample copy available for $2 by writing to Elinor Nuxoll, 1419 E. Marietta Ave., Spokane WA 99207-5026.

Grandparents Parenting... Again... Annual subscription is $5.00. Phoenix Foundation, 1500 W. El Camino, Suite 325, Sacramento, CA 95833. Telephone: 916-922-1615.

Your Grandchild. Bimonthly. To receive a sample copy, call 800-243-5201, or send email to sunielevin@aol.com

Online Publications

Are You Raising Your Grandchildren? by Marianne Takas.
http://www.fosterparents.com/index30raisinggrch.html

The Grandparent Guidebook.
http://gfn1.genesee.freenet.org/p90/Grandparents/index.htm

Grandparenting.
http://ohioline.ag.ohio-state.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5213.html

Grandparents as Parents: A Primer for Schools.
http://ericeece.org/pubs/digests/1996/dr-gra96.html

A Grandparents' Guide for Family Nurturing and Safety, by T. Berry Brazelton and Ann Brown of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/grand/grand.htm

It's Not the Same the Second Time Around: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, by Renee S. Woodworth.
http://www.zerotothree.org/2nd_time.html

Respite Services to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, by Renee S. Woodworth.
http://www.chtop.com/archfs45.htm

Secrets of Good Grandparenting, by Physicians of the Geisinger Health System.
http://www.geisinger.edu/ghs/pubtips/G/Grandparenting.htm

Things Grandparents, Neighbors, and Concerned Citizens Can Do to Improve Education.
http://www.summit96.ibm.com/perspectives/citizenslist.html

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Organizations

AARP Grandparent Information Center
601 E St., NW
Washington, DC, DC 20049
Telephone: 202-434-2296
Fax: 202-434-6466

Alliance of Grandparents Against SIDS Tragedy
Telephone: 800-793-SIDS
Email: MURRAYEILE@aol.com

Caring Grandparents of America
400 Seventh St., NW, Suite 302
Washington, DC 20004-2206
Telephone: 202-783-0952

Foundations for Grandparenting
5 Casa del Oro Lane
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Email: gpfound@trail.com

Grandparents Reaching Out (GRO)
Mildred Horn
141 Glen Summer Rd.
Holbrook, NY 11741
Telephone: 516-472-9728

National Coalition of Grandparents, Inc.
137 Larkin St.
Madison, WI 53705
Telephone: 608-238-8751

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Sources

Landry-Meyer, Laura, & Fournier, Karen. (1997). Grandparents raising grandchildren (Family...The Strongest Link. Family Life Month Packet 1997) [Fact Sheet]. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Extension.

U.S. Census Bureau. (1998). Facts for Grandparent's Day [Online]. Available: http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/fs97-09.html [1998, January 16].

Woodworth, Renee S. (1995). You're not alone... You're one in a million. Child Welfare, 75(5), 619-635.

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Credits

Prepared for Parent News by Debbie Reese.

Published monthly by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Children's Research Center, 51 Gerty Drive, Champaign, IL 61820-7469. This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. DERR93002007. Opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Department of Education.

NPIN Coordinator and Parent News Editor: Anne Robertson
Production Editor: Emily S. Van Hyning

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