At This Challenging Time, Grandfamilies Will Step In Again
BY JACK LEVINE
As our country considers the ramifications of overturning Roe v. Wade, there is one group that is being overlooked — older adults who unexpectedly find themselves caring for babies and children.
Grandfamilies, aka kinship families – those in which children are raised by grandparents, other relatives, or close family friends form for many reasons, including child and adolescent distress, health emergencies, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and unplanned pregnancies.
The number of grandfamilies grows whenever our country faces a dangerous threat. Most recently, the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic caused the number of families headed by a grandparent or other relative to increase.
While quality foster care placements and the permanency of adoption are valuable options for some children, most children do best with the care of relatives who provide more stable and safe home lives, resulting in better behavioral mental health outcomes and higher academic achievement.
In reality, though, grandfamilies step up to care for the children at great personal sacrifice with little to no support. Prioritizing the children’s needs over their own, grandparents may find themselves making decisions to pay for diapers and formula instead of their own prescription medication and other basic survival needs.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision will likely further exacerbate healthcare disparities. Women living in poverty are more likely to be impacted. In the face of these realities, grandfamilies will again step in to raise the children left behind and mitigate the trauma left in its wake.
The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs has drawn more focus on the ways our country is deeply divided. The core debates over personal medical privacy, the role of religious influence in the public policy debate, how victims of rape, incest and human trafficking are cared for, and the intense confusion over how individual state policies (e.g., statutory abortion restrictions/prohibitions, criminal penalties, disparities in health care funding) will result in inequitable treatment for economically challenged women and girls.
Against all odds, we must consider taking this opportunity to support policies and programs which would unite us. Caring for our nation’s babies, children, and youth, and the families who step up to raise them despite often overwhelming hardship is a moral imperative.
“In reality, though, grandfamilies step up to care for the children at great personal sacrifice with little to no support.”
All sectors — governmental and non-governmental, religious, philanthropic and corporate — have responsibilities to advocate solutions which ameliorate the undeniable challenges. so many families are facing. These include:
- Providing accessible pre-natal, maternal and newborn health care
- Ensuring accessible, affordable and high-quality childcare and paid family leave
- Making timely investments in education, from early childhood through higher education
- Ensuring access to affordable contraceptive health care, child protection services, enhanced parent education and father-involvement programs
- Improving access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grants, family foster care maintenance payments, Social Security, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), free and reduced-price school meals
- Investing in affordable safe housing, transportation, and workplace safety policies.
Overturning Roe v. Wade will undoubtedly result in more stress and pressure falling on multi-generational caregivers. We need to act now to support our nation’s children and those who wrap them in the love and care they need to survive and thrive.
Kinship caregivers cannot, and should not, be forced to do this alone and without our support. Fundamentally, compassion, unity, and love for the most vulnerable family members is what our country needs now more than ever.
All of us, irrespective of our perspective on the legality of abortion access, have the opportunity and obligation to invest wisely in policies and programs that are proven to enhance the quality of our children’s lives.
Read more from Jack here
Note: Special thanks to Generations United www.gu.org for their leadership and support.
Founder 4Generations Institute
Director, GRAND Partners