SENIOR SERVICES: 
Kinship Connection

[September 2020 | By Amy Rowan, Tri-County Health Network.]

Traditionally, grandparents were supposed to be fun and would take the grandkids to the zoo, out for ice cream, have one-night fun sleepovers or have the grandkids for a week in the summer. I know I always loved going to my grandparents’ house. Parents were supposed to worry about providing for their children’s medical care, nutrition, discipline, educations and well-being.

Presently, with the lack of parents receiving benefits like paid vacation, paid sick leave, paid family leave, and affordable daycare, coupled with low wages and part-time positions this leaves many families turning to grandparents for help.

This shift is leaving grandparents to provide more exhaustive financial and custodial help with  50% of grandparents providing financial assistance to their adult children and grandchildren, 39% providing grandchild care, and 31% help with errands, housework, and home repairs.

In 2016, 2.7 million grandparents provided custodial care their grandchildren, today one in ten children lives with a grandparent, and a third of these households do not have a parent living in the home, leaving the grandparent to solely raise the child—this is often called the “Skipped Generation.” Many of the grandparents raising a grandchild do not have legal custody or guardianship over the child(ren), which is putting grandparents in emotional, financial and legal binds.

Depending on the situation, parents may leave children with grandparents for extended periods of time and the grandparent gradually takes on more responsibility. This can occur when the parents are incarcerated, have mental health or substance abuse issues or the children are abandoned. Grandparents may get an unexpected call from social services stating their grandchild needs a place to live because of the death of a parent(s), physical, sexual, emotional abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Interesting enough, poverty is the most common underlying reason. Generally, grandparents providing custodial care have lower incomes and do not access public benefits. For example, only 12% of custodial grandparents and other kinship families access Temporary Assistance to Needy Families TANF and most would probably be eligible for the benefit.

Grandparents/Kin needs to be aware of the different custody forms.

  • Grandparents as Foster Parents, Grandparents may serve as foster parents or kinship care. When the state removes children from their parents’ care.
  • Physical Custody with Power of Attorney, when grandparents take care of their grandchild for an extended period.
  • Legal and Physical Custody A grandparent who wants more control over the grandchild can go to court and ask for legal custody as well as physical custody, both being established through a court order.
  • Guardianship has a wide variation in the meaning of all the forms of grandparent custody.
  • Adoption is the most permanent arrangement that can be made between a parenting grandparent and their grandchild.

There are many programs that support grandparents and kin caring for children. If you are newly designated grandparent or kin caring for a child or have been in the role for a while, it is ok to reach out for support you are not alone. I sit on six Individual Services and Support Team (ISST) committees throughout San Miguel, Ouray, and Montrose Counties sponsored by at Hilltop Family Resource Center and the Uncompahgre Board of Cooperative Educational Services UnBOCES, I am amazed at how multiple agencies and school districts come together to wrap services and support around the child(ren) and the grandparent or kin to help the family in adapting to their new lifestyle.

Family Resources

  • UnBOCES Board of Cooperative Educational Services in the Uncompahgre Valley of Western Colorado provides a variety of services for families and children, unboces.org, (970)-626-2977
  • Hilltop Family Resource Center has a program for Grandparent support through Region 10 and supports ISST, htop.org, (970) 252-7445
  • Uncompahgre Volunteer Legal Aid, can help with custody forms, https://uvlamontrose.org/, 970-249-7202
  • Tri-County Health Network provides Medicaid Care Coordination and is engaged in multiple community organizations, tchnetwork.org, (Amy Rowan, Care Coordinator Supervisor 970-614-7311)
  • Colorado Kinship Care and Kinship Family and our local Child Protective Services in San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose Counties work hard to support children and youth in our communities. To access all Child Welfare Programs in Colorado go to https://co4kids.org or call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437)