Stepping up: The Rise of Grandparents Raising Grandkids in Pennsylvania

May is Older Americans Month, reminding us of a significant trend that is obvious but not largely discussed. Across Pennsylvania, and the rest of the country, more grandparents than ever are raising their grandkids.

Estimates vary on how many grandparents in Pennsylvania are raising their grandkids, but reports indicate that the number is anywhere from 95,000 to 200,000. These grandparents take on the responsibility of raising their grandkids for various reasons, many of which are tragic. In this blog, we talk about these reasons; the benefits of grandparents raising their grandkids and what challenges come with it; and what resources are available to grandparents in need.

Why are more grandparents raising their grandkids?

Grandparents who find themselves in the position of raising their grandkids do so for several reasons. A leading reason is financial hardship, where a lack of money or job security may cause parents to ask their parents to raise their kids.

However, substance abuse issues and incarceration are the biggest reasons, with grandparents stepping in to be the stable anchor in their grandchildren’s lives. The opioid crisis has caused a surge in children being placed with relatives as parents struggle with addiction. Grandparents become the unsung heroes in these situations, as they navigate complex legal and emotional landscapes to provide stability and care for their grandchildren.

What are the benefits and challenges of grandparents raising their grandkids?


  • Family cohesion. Grandparents raising their grandchildren can strengthen family bonds and provide stability and continuity.
  • Emotional support. Grandchildren can receive nurturing care and emotional support from grandparents who have a deep love and connection to them.
  • Wisdom and experience. Grandparents often bring a wealth of life experience and wisdom to parenting, which can benefit grandchildren in various aspects of their lives.
  • Cultural and generational connections. Grandparents can pass down cultural traditions, values, and family history to their grandchildren, preserving important aspects of heritage.
  • Financial assistance. In some cases, grandparents may provide financial support for their grandchildren’s upbringing, helping to alleviate financial strain on the parents.


  • Health concerns. Grandparents may face health issues or limitations that can make parenting more physically demanding as they age.
  • Financial strain. Raising grandchildren can be costly, particularly if grandparents are on fixed incomes or have limited resources. This can lead to financial stress and strain on the family.
  • Role adjustment. Grandparents may need to adjust to the role of primary caregiver, which can be challenging if they had not anticipated taking on this responsibility in their later years.
  • Social isolation. Grandparents raising grandchildren may experience social isolation or a lack of support from peers who may not understand their unique situation.
  • Legal and custody issues. Navigating legal and custody matters can be complex and emotionally draining for grandparents, especially if there are disputes with the parents or other family members.

Despite these challenges, the bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be resilient, forged through love, sacrifice, and shared experiences. In Pennsylvania and beyond, grandparents are stepping up to provide stability and support for the next generation, embodying the timeless values of family and community.

What resources are available for grandparents raising their grandkids?

There are several resources and support services for grandparents in Pennsylvania who are raising their grandkids:

  • Kinship navigator programs. These programs provide information, referral services, and support to kinship caregivers, including grandparents. They can help connect caregivers with resources such as financial assistance, legal services, and support groups. The PA Kinship Navigator Program and PA KinConnector are two such resources.
  • Support groups. In-person and online support groups are specifically available for grandparents raising grandchildren. These groups offer emotional support, practical advice, and opportunities for grandparents to connect with others who are facing similar challenges.
  • Financial assistance. Some grandparents may be eligible for financial assistance through programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or other state and local assistance programs. These programs can help offset the costs associated with raising grandchildren.
  • Healthcare assistance. Grandparents may need assistance navigating the healthcare system for their grandchildren. Programs such as CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and Medicaid can help ensure that grandchildren have access to necessary healthcare services.
  • Legal assistance. Grandparents may encounter legal issues related to custody, guardianship, or accessing benefits for their grandchildren. Legal aid organizations in Pennsylvania can provide low-cost or free legal assistance to grandparents in need.

As we reflect on the growing trend of grandparents raising grandkids, let us recognize and honor their contributions, and work towards creating a society where all families have the support they need to thrive.

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