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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

As family dynamics continually shift in response to social changes in this country, new interpretations of traditional family structure are constantly being explored. One of the fastest growing of these new family structures involves grandparents raising their grandchildren as a response to parent failure. The following contains quotes from an article in Newsweek magazine.

 A Different Kind of Family

An entirely different kind of family is born when mothers are unable to care for their children. It’s often Grandma who comes to the rescue. Five years ago, Ruth Rench was looking forward to retirement. Her children had long since moved out of her house near Ft. Worth, and she was planning to travel, using the nest egg she built up during 25 years with the local school system.

That’s when Rench’s 3-year-old granddaughter gave her some chilling news: she had been molested by one of her mother’s male friends. It would not be the last time the girl was abused. Rench finally filed for custody of her granddaughter.

Two years and $25,000 later, Rench, now 65-years-old, finally won custody of her granddaughter, now 8-years-old. Ruth has joined a nationwide groundswell of grandparents who are stepping in to raise their children’s children. Rench and her granddaughter are one of 95 “skip-generation” families who belong to the Ft. Worth area chapter of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG).

 The Skip Generation Phenomena

According to family-court judges, social workers and counselors, the skip-generation phenomenon is often linked to drug and alcohol abuse. The affected parents cannot or should not assume responsibility for their children. But the problem is not limited to families of the inner city, or even to drug users.

“Most of these grandparents are from good middle class families who have never had to face anything like this before,” says Ellen Hogan, 44. Hogan, who heads a 55-member Houston GRG group, and her husband, Harold, are in the middle of a court battle with their 23-year-old daughter over custody of their two grandchildren, ages 1 and 4.

“It’s happening to blue collar workers, white collar workers, blacks, whites, Latinos,” Ruth said. “It’s happening all over.”

Often frustrated by the expense and the legal hoops they must jump through to gain custody of neglected or abused grandchildren, many grandparents stand by helplessly as their grandchildren are shipped off to foster homes. Others simply take on the child-rearing burden without legal custody. They may start on an informal basis by watching the grandchildren on the weekends or while the parents are at work. Gradually, the time the children spend with them is extended as parents lose control of their lives through drugs, financial difficulties or extreme self-absorption.

The situation may go on for years until suddenly the mother decides she wants her child back, often to increase her welfare payments. “It often ends up in court,” says one family counselor. “Sometimes amicably, sometimes not.”

 Long term effects

Psychiatrists and psychologists are just beginning to look at the long-term emotional effects skip-generation rearing has on children. California social worker Sylvie de Toledo has spent the last two years working with such families in programs she started at the Psychiatric Clinic for Youth in Long Beach and the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center in Los Angeles.

Though skip-generation grandparents and parents suffer great emotional strain during these crises, it is the children who are at greatest risk. They often do poorly in school, defy authority, have problems making friends and exhibit physical aggressiveness or feelings of isolation.

“It is critical that the children be helped to understand that they are blameless,” de Toledo emphasized. Although these children are quite attached to their grandparents, she explains, they have a profound sense of abandonment, loss and rejection by their parents. “They worry consciously or unconsciously that they may once again be abandoned.” One of these childrens’ greatest fears is that their grandparents may get sick or die, leaving them with no one else to turn to.

Grandmothers like Ruth Rench sacrifice their own needs and plans to provide their grandchildren with that precious sense of security and love that is every child’s birthright. They are also struggling to keep their grandkids from perpetuating a dangerous cycle. “All I can do now is give my granddaughter all the moral and spiritual training she needs and hope she doesn’t grow up to repeat the destructive pattern of behavior she was born into,” says Rench.


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  1. Michael Rakubu December 4th, 2012

    Thank you for the useful information, is there a particular article which you might refer to

    Reply
    • FGP December 7th, 2012

      Hi.
      See Dr. Kornhaber’s book “The Grandparent Guide. on Amazon.

      Reply
  2. Tina Tudor November 30th, 2014

    WHERE CAN I GO AS A GRANDPARENT TO GET LEGAL HELP ON CLAIMING A GRANDCHILD ON INCOME TAXES?

    Reply
    • FGP February 16th, 2015

      Surely the IRS can halp?
      All the best.

      Reply
  3. Katherine Mack January 30th, 2015

    My daughter and her son live with me. I support both of them and pay for child care so she can work. (She does pay for a portion of it). Am I able to file for child support from the father? I live in NC?

    Reply
  4. Janelle Goodman February 19th, 2016

    I am raising my 4 grandchildren. Been doing this now for almost 18 years. One right after the other kept coming. I finally got custody if the last 2 almost 2 years ago.they are all doing well. My husband suffers from dementia , thank goodness I’m in fairly good health. They are 18, 14, 10 and 8. Grandparents put their lives on hold to care for these children. They are need to be praised for all they have done. Thank you grandparents…..

    Reply
  5. Williambut June 8th, 2016

    Great forum.Much thanks again. Awesome. Barke

    Reply
  6. Cynthia Archer December 10th, 2016

    My husband and I adopted 3 of my husband’s grandchildren when their mother’s neglect and drug abuse caused the DHS to take the children. We were in a different state and it took 9 months to get the children out of foster care and into our home. We are blessed to have them but we know there is a reality to being 60 years old with a three year d to raise.There are no support groups where we live and we could use one!

    Reply
    • FGP January 2nd, 2017

      HI
      Many people who couldn’t find a support group started their own with an ad in the newspaper
      or getting the word around the community through schools, religious institutions etc…
      Good luck!

      Reply
  7. sue keen May 25th, 2017

    I am just overwhelmed. My son and his ten year old, my grandson just moved in with me. My son got a job working nights and although my grandson is ten he still needs someone to prepare his dinner, see that he gets a bath and does his school work. I feel anxious about all of this and even though I love them both very much, at times I feel stressed. Just needed to vent.

    Reply

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