August 24, 2021 — The assumption has always been that you would bring up your children and they would go on to raise their own families. Empty nesting and retirement would follow for you, bringing relaxation and less stress. But for the 2.3 million baby boomers who are raising an estimated 2.7 million children, the days of child care are not over yet. These “Grandcarents” are often in need of “Grandfamily” Housing, and the economic and other pressures are usually enormous. This article will discuss some sources of help if this is the situation for you or someone you know.
The ways that older adults become responsible for young children vary. Often it can be pinned on a drug epidemic like crack or opiods. Adult children get hooked, have children of their own, and the grandparents or uncles and aunts have to step in to avoid foster care and neglect. In other cases there might be psychological problems, the inability to hold a job, or incarceration. The pandemic has contributed to the problem too. Whatever the cause, assuming responsibility for young children when you are in your 60s and 70s is a forbidding challenge. We even know some people in their 80s who are raising their great-grandchildren.
Many times the older adults who take responsibility for children do not have significant financial resources. Sometimes those might have depleted trying to help the adult children. In other cases the extra expense of raising children puts too much stress on an already strained financial picture. Fortunately there is help, if you can find it.
Sources of help
The NY Times recently took on the issue of Grandfamily housing. In it they profiled Jackie Lynn, 67 and a single woman who took on the responsibility of rearing her addicted niece’s four children and a newborn. As Jackie put it: “The kids were there; they needed me”. Ms. Lynn struggled for a year trying to find a suitable place for them all to live, while juggling work and wondering how she would be able to cope. Much to her relief she found out about and applied successfully to Bridge Meadows in North Portland (OR), which has townhouses for extended families like hers as well as apartments for older, single adults.
There are an estimated 19 organizations that are working to help grandfamilies like Jackie’s. One of them is Generations United. These resources are needed, since it can be very difficult for these families to find suitable housing. For example, someone who lives in a 55+ community would usually not be allowed to bring in children to live there, forcing a move. Often the older caregiver’s financial resources are tight, which severely restricts finding a home or apartment big enough for the new family.
What to do
If you are a grandcarent or know someone who is, don’t give up – there is help if you look hard enough. Ask your town’s Youth and Family Services office for help and references. Your church or other civic organization might be able to help. Network as much as can, you never know who might be able to help.
- Grandfamilies Report: Finding a Place to Call Home – Generations United
- AARP Grandhousing resources
Are you in a grandfamily and have responsibility for raising your grandchildren? If so, how are you doing and how are you coping. Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.