Grandparents should always be celebrated but on September 12th, we should all take a moment to recognize and give thanks to those who dedicate their time, love and effort to helping children grow into healthy adults. For many reasons, it is not uncommon to find grandparents raising their grandchildren with no help from the parents. These arrangements, sometimes called “skip-generation households” often arise out of necessity when the parents (permanently or temporarily) find themselves unable or unfit to raise their children.
It is more common than we might imagine; 2001 Statistics Canada reported that some 56,700 grandparents were raising their grandchildren for these reasons. Two thirds of these grandparents were women, 46% of them retired (and therefore on fixed-income). These situations can be difficult for some: the grandparent never expected to have to raise another family, they are on fixed-income and don’t always have the means to pay for all the expenses that children incur or they might even suffer from health problems and mobility challenges. Compounding the issue is the fact that it is common for the children themselves to suffer from health and psychological conditions. When the parental absence stems from drug and alcohol abuse problems or from criminality, the child will often have lived in an undesirable environment and the results may vary but they rarely come out unscathed.
In the next issue of CARP ActionOnline, we will update you on Pro-Bono Law Ontario and CARP’s advocacy efforts on behalf of Ontario grandparents fighting to hang on to the Temporary Care Allowance; a small financial benefit that helps grandparents pay a small part of the many expenses they struggle to meet. To read about our past efforts, please click here. If you or someone you know someone who is currently raising a grandchild, you should download this free online resource book (check link:http://www1.carp.ca/PDF/GRG_Resource_ Booklet.pdf. It was produced by the Parent Support Services Society of British Columbia in partnership with the School of Social Work at the University of Victoria as well as the Association of Family Serving Agencies.
Although some of the resources outlined in the book are specific to British Columbia, it also contains information on all of the Federal tax and income support programs for which you might be eligible and a wealth of information on a variety of topics that you will find helpful. You will find information on child development, health and safety, educational resources as well as information on how to cope with special needs and other health conditions.
Although a patchwork of meager tax credits and supports is available to grandparents, they have yet to be eligible for support that even remotely compares to the aid provincial governments provide to foster parents (approximately $900/month plus other expenses, the amount varies by province).
Let’s celebrate Grandparent’s Day by noting that a lot more needs to be done to help the people who want to prevent their grandchild from being placed in the foster care system. Although there are many issues that arise in this situation, why not begin with the reasonable premise that a financial support system should be in place for people who step up to the challenge and simply need a little extra help?