In a Divisive Time, Grandfamilies Will Step In….Again

As the 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 –or those in which children are raised by grandparents, other relatives, or close family friends — form for many reasons, including adolescent 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. When they cannot be raised by their parents, children do best with relatives. Compared to children in foster care with non-relatives, children with relatives have more stable and safe childhoods, better behavioral and mental health outcomes, and are more likely to report “always feeling loved.” These families 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.

Grandfamilies exist in all races and ethnicities. However, Black and Indigenous people make up a disproportionate number of these families. This stems from long-held cultural traditions of caring for extended family. Such traditions are central to the strength and resilience that these communities show as they survive and thrive despite the impact of historical trauma, ongoing racial bias, and discrimination.

Ending Roe v. Wade and forcing women to carry out their pregnancies could lead to a 21% increase in overall pregnancy-related deaths and a 33% increase in pregnancy-related deaths among Black women. As these statistics show, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision will further exacerbate healthcare disparities people of color and women confront. More women will live in poverty, and low-income woman 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.

This decision has drawn more focus on the ways our country is divided. Against all odds, we must take this as an opportunity to support that which unites us — caring for our nation’s babies, children, and youth, and the families who step up to raise them despite often overwhelming hardship.

All sectors — governmental, nongovernmental, religious, and corporate — have undeniable responsibilities. These include:

· Provide paid family leave for all workers

· Ensure access to affordable childcare

· Invest in education, from early childhood through higher education

· Ensure access to age-appropriate, affordable health care for children and their caregivers

· Ensure adequate support to help grandfamilies meet children’s basic needs, such as by improving access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) child-only grants, family foster care maintenance payments, Social Security, SNAP, free and reduced-price school meals, and affordable housing.

Overturning Roe v. Wade will most likely result in more stress and pressure falling on 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 thrive, because they cannot and should not have to do this alone and without our support. Fundamentally, compassion, unity, and love is what our country is about — — not divisiveness.

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Generations United

National nonprofit that improves children, youth and older adults' lives through intergenerational programs and policies. Why? Because we're stronger together.