Today, during National Family Caregivers Month, the Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren delivered its initial report to Congress. The report is a culmination of a two-year, multi-faceted effort that gathered information from kin and grandparent caregivers of children across the country. It provides an overview of the many complex issues faced by these families and recommendations for addressing them. The work of the Advisory Council is facilitated and supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL).
The 22 recommendations fall under five priority areas:
- Awareness of/Outreach to Kin and Grandparent Caregivers including increasing public understanding of the contributions kin and grandparent caregivers.
- Kin and Grandparent Caregiver Engagement to better integrate kin and grandparent caregivers into the child’s care team.
- Services and Supports for Kinship Families and Grandfamilies including increasing access to information, services, and supports like respite care, child care, counseling, and more.
- Financial and Workplace Security for Kin and Grandparent Caregivers to promote policies that prevent them from being financially disadvantaged and adopting workplace policies, flexibilities, and practices that recognize their caregiving responsibilities.
- Research, Data, and Evidence-Supported Practices to establish a national approach for obtaining, analyzing, disseminating, and applying relevant data on kinship families and grandfamilies.
The report also includes a snapshot of federally funded efforts to support kinship families and grandfamilies. Together—with the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council’s initial report to Congress recently released in September—these reports offer a comprehensive examination of the experiences, needs and concerns of family caregivers.
When parents can no longer care for their children, there is no one better suited to step in than grandparents, extended family, and close “family-like” friends—in other words, the people whom the children already know and love. But providing that care can come at a cost to the caregivers’ own physical, mental, and financial health and well-being. The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are 2.7 million children being raised in the homes of grandparents. Unfortunately, data on the number of children being raised by non-grandparent kin is not available.
“Kinship families or grandfamilies,” as they are commonly known, form in response to a range of challenges, such as the opioid epidemic, death, incarceration, serious mental illness, or other causes. The child welfare system increasingly relies on these families to provide care, yet they are less likely than non-related foster families to receive needed supports and services.
The Advisory Council spent two years expanding their understanding of ways to better support kinship families and grandfamilies. The report describes how the legal and child welfare systems in this nation do not address the needs of these families. Nor are these families adequately supported by federal, state, and local policies. As a result, many lack access to basic supports and services. These caregivers often struggle to house, feed, and clothe themselves and the children in their care. For many families, the disproportionate inequities and barriers they already face each day are compounded as they navigate complex legal systems, a maze of disconnected financial and social services, and social stigma.
“Addressing the unmet needs of kin and grandparent caregivers is critical to ACL’s mission to support older adults and people with disabilities of all ages to thrive in their own communities. Forty percent of these caregivers are older adults, and twenty-five percent have disabilities. Often, they are caring for children who have disabilities,” said ACL Principal Deputy Administrator Alison Barkoff. “As this report shows, we have our work ahead of us if we are to truly support the millions of kinship and grandfamilies across this country. With a focus on caregiving by the Administration, Congress and the public, we are committed to seizing this unprecedented opportunity to bring that vision to life.”
The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (SGRG) Act, (Public Law 115-196) authorized establishing an advisory council to identify, promote, coordinate, and disseminate information, resources, and best practices available to help grandparents and other older relatives meet the needs of children in their care while maintaining their own physical, mental, and emotional health. The council is composed of grandparents, professionals working in the field of supports and services to grandparents and the children they care for, and representatives of the federal agencies that serve these populations.
Learn more about the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Advisory Council at acl.gov/SGRG.
Download the Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren’s initial report to Congress.