Parenting is a life-long endeavor; full of great beauty, intense struggle and plenty of surprises. There are times when we are not expecting to parent, but life has other plans.
In Vermont, 2,400 grandparents report they are responsible for raising their grandchildren. That number is nearly 2.5 million nationally. This means that over 5,500 children within the state of Vermont and 5.8 million children nationally are being raised in grandparent-headed households, also called “Grand Families,” according to AARP. Generally speaking, this is called kinship or adaptive care.
“Kinship care is when an adult relative cares for a child under the age of 18, either on a temporary or permanent basis. The relative is most often a grandparent,” but can also be another relative or a family friend (Vermont Resource Guide for Relatives Caring for Children).
The situations leading to kinship care are many and may include: substance abuse, economic hardship, divorce, domestic violence, incarceration, a sudden death in the family, mental health issues, military service or the parent is unable to provide safe, appropriate care for his or her children. There are times when many of these situations overlap, causing great stress and uncertainty within the family.
While kinship can be joyous and exceptionally gratifying, it can also be overwhelming; emotionally, legally and financially. In some situations, “You’re trying to parent two people; an infant child and adult child,” said Betty Holton, a grandparent, during an interview on WCAX television.
Fortunately, there are resources and peer support for grandparents navigating the complexities of kinship care, including a local group called “Circle of Support for Kinship Caregivers.” Below is a list of resources and support tailored for foster/kinship families.
· Vermont 2-1-1. Dial 2-1-1 from your phone or go to www.vermont211.org to find resources, support, legal or financial services.
· Vermont Resources Guide for Relatives Caring for Children. Resource guide including financial and legal information as well as a directory of local and state organizations. http://bit.ly/141gqxw
· Local support of kinship caregivers. Circle of Support for Kinship Caregivers. Meets every other Thursday from 10-11:30 at Parks Place in Bellows Falls. For more information, contact Deb Witkus at 802.463.9927 ext 212 or firstname.lastname@example.org
· Statewide education and support group for relatives raising children. www.vermontkinasparents.org
· http://voicesatthetable.wordpress.com/. This bi-weekly blog is a forum for kinship, foster, and adoptive families to share with one another. Created by the Child Welfare Training Partnership. The partnership also offers trainings and resources for adaptive/kinship families.
· Promotes public policy that enhances the lives of children and youth in Vermont. www.voicesforvtkids.org
Chad Simmons is the media coordinator for the Greater Falls Prevention Coalition. It is the vision of the Greater Falls Prevention Coalition to build a healthy, nurturing and supportive community. Our mission is to connect the community of Windham Northeast by inspiring and empowering people through education and collaboration to promote wellness and prevent the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.