The adage states that grandparents are supposed to spoil their grandchildren, then send the kids back to their parents for the day-to-day responsibilities of child-rearing.
But for as many as 8,000 children in Lucas County, their grandparents are acting as parents too.
A seminar titled “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. today at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 4030 Douglas Rd., to offer support and information to those who find themselves parenting all over again when their own children can’t, or won’t, do the job.
Presentations at the seminar will address the legal, educational, medical, and psychological difficulties related to raising one’s grandchildren “and offer help,” said Sam Burnett, senior advocate for the Pat Miller Foundation, one of the event’s sponsoring organizations.
There will also be an opportunity for round-table discussions with the presenters, as well as a question-and-answer session.
“In the last five to eight years, we’ve seen a growing number of grandparents having to raise” their own grandchildren, Mr. Burnett said. “What a heartbreak it is.”
For all the joys of spending time with grandchildren, he continued, there are “a multitude of problems and concerns” to address when grandparents become the primary caregivers rather than occasional baby sitters.
Situations are different in each family, but some of the most common reasons for parents being unable to care for their children are substance abuse, mental or physical illness, incarceration, divorce, loss of parental rights because of abuse or neglect, and death. Children who have endured these sorts of stresses suffer resultant emotional, behavioral, and health issues that complicate their grandparents’ ability to care for them.
Mr. Burnett quoted statistics for Ohio that show the average age of a grandparent raising a grandchild is 55 years old, and many are still employed. A significant number of the grandparents “are above that” in age, Mr. Burnett said.
The average income of a grandparent raising a grandchild in this state is only $30,000. And 87 percent of those who’ve taken custody of their grandchildren are single women.
Their own personal health and financial situations, not to mention giving up independence and established routines, are significant factors for those who raise their grandchildren. “The sacrifice is unbelievable, that these grandparents make for the kids,” Mr. Burnett said.
Legal issues are often the most difficult of the obstacles to overcome, Mr. Burnett said. There can be custody battles, foster-care involvement, difficulty acquiring documents, confidentiality issues with health professionals and with schools, and other problems. Many times, resolving the entanglements can be prohibitively expensive.
A particularly painful aspect of the situation, Mr. Burnett said, is “how [grandparents] feel guilty that their own children didn’t raise their children as well” as they’d been raised themselves.
“Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” also is sponsored and supported by the Boomers Resource Network, LLC, the Eleanor Kahle Senior Center, Informed Citizens, Toledo Public Schools, the Kinship Navigator Program of the Area Office on Aging, and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).
Child care and light refreshments will be offered. For more information, call 419-841-8889.
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