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Grandparent Caregiver Program Receives Critical Funding

Hundreds of District grandparents can breathe sighs of relief. The highly-regarded DC Grandparent Caregiver Program (GCP), scheduled to end this fall, will now be permanent. Mayor Adrian Fenty proposed the change in his FY2010 Budget Support Act and all 13 District Council members have stood behind it.

Not only did the Council support the Mayor’s proposal to keep the GCP running, members also secured a critical $1.465 million increase in the District’s FY2010 budget. The additional funding will allow the program to support nearly 92% of the more than 180 children on the waiting list.

For the past 3 years, the Grandparent Caregivers Program, which was championed by AARP DC, has been supporting low-income grandparents raising grandchildren. It helps keep children in their families by providing grandparent caregivers with monthly subsidies equal to those a foster parent would receive. This funding is a lifeline for grandparents struggling to provide safe and nurturing homes.

Take Balinda Cunningham, a Southeast Washington resident who has been raising her 8 year-old granddaughter Tierra from birth. Before she began receiving the subsidy last June, she had trouble providing Tierra the basic necessities. Tierra’s feet hurt because her shoes were too tight and classmates made fun of her hand-me-down clothes. Balinda couldn’t afford to send her on school trips and occasionally they both went hungry. Thanks to the Grandparent Caregive Program, Tierra not only eats better, but her clothes fit and she participates in trips like the other kids. The subsidy has provided a safety net that they are thankful for every day.

Grandparent-headed families are not the only ones to benefit from the program. It can be a District budget saver as well. The Grandparent Caregiver Program subsidy costs the city an average $8,900 per child per year. Caring for a child through the child welfare system costs the government more than $20,000 annually.

The expansion of the GCP will be a lifesaver for many District grandparent caregivers, including Ivybelle Roye, a great grandmother who has been on the waiting list for more than a year. “At my age,” she told the District Council Committee on Human Services back in April, “it is not easy to raise two infants, but I am happy to do it in order to keep my grandchildren within a family that loves and cherishes them. The subsidy would give me a cushion to provide the life these children deserve now and into the future. I want to see them grow up to be responsible and happy adults.”

For program information, call 202-442-6009.

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