Grandparents raise a second generation of kids
Jan 25, 2008 2:24 PM | Print

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Raising a second generation of kids is not what many grandparents expected to be doing, but that seems to be the reality for many, according to Wichita State University sociologist Twyla Hill.

Hill: "In America, grandparents have traditionally stepped in when parents have died. But now we're seeing more and more parents unable to fulfill their responsibilities due to mental illness, being in jail or drug abuse."

Grandparents may be raising more children than you realize.

Hill: "About 5 percent of children nationwide are living in a grandparent-headed household. And in Kansas, about 4 percent of children are. Most of these children have at least one parent present. And also, contrary to some stereotypes, most of these children are white. Only about a third of these children are African American."

About 29,000 children live in grandparent-headed households in Kansas. And there are more than 6 million children living with a grandparent in the United States. But, according to Hill, not all of these children will spend their entire childhood with their grandparents.

Hill: "For those children who are living in a grandparent-headed household with at least one parent, the situation tends to be temporary. However, for those children living with their grandparents and without a parent, the situation is often permanent."

Hill has observed another trend when it comes to grandparents raising grandchildren.

Hill: "States that have higher rates of poverty also tend to have higher rates of grandparent and grandchild co-residents."

The fact is, grandparents have many challenges when it comes to raising their grandkids.

Hill: "For those grandparents who are raising a child without a parent present, they often are in a legal limbo. They don't have all of the parental rights that they would have if they were the child's parent, and they're unwilling to cut off the parents' rights to the child."

Sometimes more financial help is available than the grandparent realizes, as Hill explains.

Hill: "Some assistance is available to grandparents rearing their grandchildren, but grandparents may not be aware of the assistance, or they may be unwilling to get involved in the legal complications that this assistance might bring."

The strain of second parenthood, as some people call it, has threatened health, marriages and finances. To be sure, there are numerous challenges for grandparents raising their grandchildren, but the news isn't all bad or depressing. Maggie Biscarr, a national program consultant in grandparenting for AARP, said her organization hears from grandparents who sound reborn. According to Biscarr, grandparents say it keeps them young and gives them a second lease on life. They go from drifting through retirement to discovering computers, going to the park and learning from their grandkids about the latest fashions. She says that sometimes it works out well and they rediscover life.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

For more information, contact Twyla Hill, WSU sociologist, (316) 978-7151 or
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Created on Jan 25, 2008 2:24 PM; Last modified on Feb 11, 2008 10:02 AM
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