LehighValleyNews.com Grandparents raising grandkids: ‘Unless you live it, you don’t know it’

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 grandparents now are raising their grandchildren in Pennsylvania, according to a statewide organization working to get more resources for those people in the new year.

“The grandparents get nothing,” Beth, a 71-year-old grandmother from northeast Pennsylvania who raised one grandson and now is raising another.

She asked that her last name and where she lives be kept private for her grandson’s sake.

“They don’t get a clothing allowance, they don’t get schooling. Unless you live it, you don’t know it.”

Beth said that during their legal process, “we were taken back to court 14 times in 13 months and we had to pay where they, because of their financial situation, got free legal services.

“We had to pay $50 an hour, minimum of three hours, for them to meet with a third party and the mother, and to me, that was very unfair, that we would have to pay for her and she didn’t have to.”

Beth’s story is not unfamiliar to many grandparents raising their children’s children.

The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance estimates that nearly 200,000 children are in the care of their older relatives in Pennsylvania.

PFSA is a nonprofit with a mission of preventing child abuse in Pennsylvania through parenting support and education programs.

‘I’ve heard horror stories’

PFSA Chief Executive Officer Angela Liddle said, “Kids do best when they’re with family and while we focus this discussion on grandparents raising grandchildren.

“We really are talking about a broader kind of kinship type of arrangement. Could be, you know, an older sibling, but kids do best when there was family, someone that they have some traditions with some roots, far better than when they’re placed in the foster care system through child welfare.”

Liddle said her team is working to support legislation that would provide grandparents raising grandchildren more resources in 2024.

“A majority of grandparents are still working,” she said. “They’re working later in life and so they’re getting kids at a time when they’re still trying to work and they’re older.

“So affordable, accessible child care, that’s huge. Most grandparents struggle to find it like any other parent.”

Liddle said legal fees and health care also can be a financial burden to such families, whose caretaker often already depends on Social Security.

“The other thing is getting temporary guardianship or a custody type of arrangement so that they can get kids enrolled in school or they can get the medical care,” she said.

“Or, believe it or not, I’ve heard horror stories about grandparents who didn’t have those things in place and couldn’t get the kids a driver’s permit or a driver’s license at 16.

“The list of issues is huge.”

Supplies are needed

Liddle said grandparents often don’t have the supplies needed to take care of a child in their home.

“They don’t have things like cribs or beds or the plethora of equipment that’s needed, really, to raise kids,” she said.

“A lot of kids have extreme trauma because of what they witnessed, sometimes it’s domestic violence, sometimes it is a very long-term addiction, substance use addiction.

“And so having the wherewithal, the means, the accessibility to mental health and behavioral health services, a lot of folks struggle with that.

“It’s harder and harder to do some of these things when you’re older and your resources are so limited.”

Liddle said that although financial resources are not yet available, support services are available through programs such as the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.

From LehighValleyNews.com, January 2, 2024

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