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More Grandparents Raising Grandkids

New census data shows an increase in children being raised by extended family

The number of children living in a grandparent's home has increased significantly over the past decade, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  I've been following this issue closely for many years and wanted to share some of the highlights of this report.

See also: GrandRally on Capitol Hill.

  • 4.9 million children (7 percent) under age 18 live in grandparent-headed households. That's up from 4.5 million living in grandparent-headed households 10 years ago. I suspect this increase has to do with challenges in our economy over the past five years, including the housing and foreclosure crisis, the loss of jobs and general economic woes. Clearly, grandparents are increasingly providing the stability and security of home for their families.
  • Approximately 20 percent of these children (964,579) have neither parent present and the grandparents are responsible for their basic needs. This is a decrease from 2000, when approximately one-third lived without parents. This is most likely because of the increase in multigenerational homes headed by grandparents that include grandparent, parent and grandchild, and another likely result of economic conditions.
  • 1.9 million children are living in households headed by other relatives (2.5 percent of the children in the country). This number is up from 1.5 million in 2000. This figure speaks to the fact that aunts, uncles, cousins and even siblings are also stepping in to support America's children when they need it the most.
  • 51 percent of grandparents who have grandkids living with them are white (up from 46 percent in 2000); 24 percent are Black/African American (down from 28 percent in 2000); and 19 percent are Hispanic/Latino (down slightly from 20 percent in 2000).  I think these changes could be an indicator of the broad swath of families, in all socio-economic categories, who have been affected by the economy. For grandparents reporting responsibility for grandchildren 67 percent are under age 60, which is down from 71 percent in 2000. And 20 percent live in poverty; up from 18.8 percent in 2000.

As increasing numbers of grandchildren rely on grandparents for the security of a home, their grandparents are taking on more of the responsibility for raising them in a tough economy — many with work challenges of their own. For these grandparents, raising another family wasn't part of the plan. But they step up to the plate when their loved ones need them.

Most of these grandparents and other relative caregivers will tell you they gain great joy from their role. But they also face financial, health, housing, education and work challenges that often foil their retirement plans. These new figures magnify the need for more supports, resources and services for these "grandfamilies" so they can more effectively do this important service to their families, and to our country, while building their own security for the future.