In today’s world, we know that not all familiar look the same. There are traditional families, single-parent families, same-sex parent families, adopted families, foster families and more. All of these families are getting their recognition, but unfortunately one type often misses out.
We’re talking about grandparent-parent families. That is families where, for whatever reason, the parents are not able to care for their children and the responsibilities fall to the grandparent. Not only is this family type found in Australia, it’s growing every year.
It is hard to make sense of the numbers of grandparent-parent families, as there is yet to be a consistent effort to measure this kind of family. The Raising Children Network said that in 2010 the number was around 16,000 families, but more recent data from the Australian Parliament claims that number might be as high as 50,000 families. Of this number, the Raising Children Network indicate that 61% of the grandparents were over 55, and more than 60% relied on their pensions of income. Additionally, there are a growing number who are single-grandparent families.
Whatever statistics you believe, all groups concur that the number of grandparent-parent families is growing, with consistent increases over the last decade.
Why Parents Aren’t There
Again, the numbers are far from conclusive, but from a study of 300 grandparent families surveyed by the Social Policy and Research Centre can give some insight into the reasons grandparents end up raising their grandkids. The leading response given was a parental drug or alcohol problem, followed by child neglect, parental mental illness, domestic violence, child abandonment, mother’s death, parental imprisonment, father’s death, parental physical illness, and issues with employment. Many grandparents also reported a number of these circumstances had contributed to them having the care of their grandchildren.
There are a number of challenges awaiting grandparents who choose to become full-time carers for their grandchildren. We’re going to chat about a few of these below. Luckily, the government is becoming more clued in on this social trend, and is offering an increasing amount of support to full-time grandparent carers.
Low Income: Many grandparents are living on the pension and their retirement funds when they become carers. While this money may have been enough for them to sustain their lives, it is unlikely to support a small family. As such, grandparents are often struggling on very low incomes as they take care of their children.
Legalities: There are still gaps in the law when it comes to grandparent carers, although they are being filled. In particular, they have to do with if other, less able, family members have access visits that have a negative influence on the child, or if they want custody. Grandparents may need to fight for the right to raise their grandchild, and may need to go out of their way to prove to the law that they’re the best option.
Health Issues: As people grow older, their health issues tend to increase. This is a natural part of aging, but it becomes more complex when you’re the main carer for your grandchild. Grandparents may feel less capable of taking care of an active child, or that the child is missing out due to the limitations on their aging body. They may also suffer from high levels of stress and exhaustion trying to keep up with their charges.
There are certainly some hard challenges faced by grandparents who undertake the role of primary carer. But there are also some positive benefits, for both the children involved, and the dedicated carers.
Family Care: If no family member steps forward to take care of a child, they may be placed in the foster care system. Although this system can work in some instances, avoiding state care by staying with a family is always the better option. Grandparents are able to stop their grandkids from having to experience the stress of foster care by becoming a carer.
Close Relationships: It is less common in today’s world to have close relationships with grandparents. In a grandparent-parent family, grandparents and grandkids have a great opportunity to have close relationships. Grandparents can enjoy their grandkids achievements, and celebrate as they move through life. They also have the opportunity to influence their grandkids in a more engaged way.
Better The Second Time: Regardless of the decisions that their children made in life, grandparents raising grandkids are getting the opportunity to take a second run at parenting. Learning from the past, and with more wisdom, they might find it a more enlightening experience.
And who knows, grandkids might keep you young!
Were you raised by your grandparents? Or are you raising your grandkids?