There are 2.5 million grandparents raising grandkids in the U.S. To give some perspective, that’s enough people to fill 263 Polar Park stadiums. In fact, the number of grandparents raising their grandkids in Massachusetts has increased by 30 percent over the last decade (U.S. Census Bureau).
That being said, grandparents raising grandkids is not a new phenomenon and is actually a typical part of many cultures. The recent rise in these multigenerational situations may be due to other factors, though.
One of the reasons more grandparents are taking on this role is due to increases in life expectancy. This not only means that grandparents are more likely to be alive to see their grandkids grow up, but also that they may be needed to help care for them for a longer period of time.
Another reason for the rise in grandparents raising grandkids is the COVID-19 pandemic. With parents feeling the impact of the pandemic physically, emotionally, and professionally, the caregiving role is often split or fully reliant on a grandparent. This leaves grandparents in a difficult situation as they try to adapt to things like online learning and juggling multiple schedules. Older adults may also not be physically or mentally prepared to take on the caregiving role again after raising their own children.
There can be a power struggle between the grandparents and the parents of the grandkids. Grandparents may feel like they know better than the parents, or that they should be the ones making decisions about the children. However, it’s important to try to respect the parents’ wishes and to work together for the best interests of the grandkids. Tensions such as this can grow when things like custody and guardianship come into play, not to mention discussions about covering the cost of raising kids, especially during inflation.
Additionally, many older adults are on fixed incomes and may not have the financial resources to support their grandkids. With most grandparents raising grandkids informally or outside the foster care system, financial support can feel tough to come by. This is especially true for BIPOC elders and communities.
Grandparents may also face a unique situation when their new role is because of their adult child’s struggles. As seen through the opioid epidemic and the rise in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, grandparents may be raising their grandkids while simultaneously trying to support their adult children. This can put a strain on relationships and have serious impacts on overall community well-being. If one person is struggling, we are all struggling.
So with all these challenges, where can someone find support? Here are some resources to get you started:
The Grandparents Raising Grandkids Resource Center
In December 2022, Congressman Jim McGovern secured $1.2 million to fund the development of a Grandparents Raising Grandkids Resource Center along with hiring six BIPOC community health workers. This effort is aimed at providing culturally competent support for grandparents raising grandkids across the region. This will be led by the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging, Inc. and will be up and running by May 2023. Call the 508-852-5539 or email email@example.com for more information.
There are many support groups for grandparents raising grandkids in Massachusetts offered through the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Learn more at www.massgrg.com or email Colleen Pitroni, Coordinator for The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren at colleen.pritoni@Mass.gov
SNAP is administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and dependent on income. SNAP benefits include:
- Monthly funds on an EBT card to buy food
- $40, $60 or $80 a month put back on your EBT card when you use SNAP to buy local produce via the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP)
- SNAP Path to Work offers free education and training opportunities
- Free nutrition education classes
If your grandchild is under five years old, they are eligible for WIC. This is a nutrition program that provides healthy foods, nutrition education, and other services at no cost. Do you receive WIC? If so, you may be eligible for discounts on other resources. Call 1-800-942-1007 to learn more.
A partnership between Reliant Medical Group and UMass Memorial Health, this online tool helps connect you to local resources and programs by topic. Visit https://communityhelp.auntbertha.com/
Providing equitable resources for grandparents raising grandkids is a key element in strengthening our communities. It’s time to take action and help one another. As Dr. Moses S. Dixon, President & CEO of the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging says, “there have always been challenges with grandparents who are raising their grandkids. COVID-19 highlighted the need to support grandfamilies in more detail. When that need became evident to us, CMAA stepped up and partnered with some foundations to provide much needed support.”
If you’re a grandparent raising grandkids and looking for some help, the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging is here. Call 508-852-5539 to get connected to the support you need. You can also visit www.seniorconnection.org and follow us on social media at @cmaaging.