DATE: October 25, 2011
TO: Board of Supervisors
SUBJECT: GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN (Districts: All)
For generations, grandparents have passed down life lessons to their grandchildren, from teaching them how to throw a baseball to how to bake cookies. But today’s world is much more complicated as economic difficulties and societal changes have thrust many grandparents into roles as surrogate parents to their grandchildren. To protect their grandchildren, many grandparents must immediately learn to navigate a complicated, fast-changing world where synthetic drugs are sold in convenience stores and sexual predators prowl social networking web sites.
Today’s grandparents need more attention and assistance. In our region, about 66,000 grandparents are living with their grandchildren and approximately 32%, or 21,000 are primarily responsible for the welfare of their grandchildren. Many of these older adults are challenged by navigating the complex maze of health, education and social services programs. The resources to assist this population are fragmented and hard to access.
With today’s action, the CAO can obtain input from the community to identify the needs of these grandparents and develop a network of resources and support for this population. The CAO, through the Health and Human Services Agency, can partner with providers in this field. An action plan would be consistent with the Board’s Strategic Initiative of supporting children and families.
SUPERVISOR GREG COX:
- Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to obtain community input to identify needs, resources and solutions for grandparents raising grandchildren.
- Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to report back to the Board in 180 days with recommendations for actions to support grandparents responsible for raising their grandchildren.
There is no fiscal impact with the result of this action.
Business Impact Statement
Advisory Board Statement
For generations, grandparents have passed down life lessons to their grandchildren, from teaching them how to throw a baseball to how to bake cookies. But today’s world is much more complicated and economic difficulties and societal changes, including widespread substance abuse, have thrust many grandparents into roles as surrogate parents to their grandchildren. To protect their grandchildren, many grandparents must immediately learn to navigate a complicated, fast-changing world where synthetic drugs are sold in convenience stores and sexual predators prowl social networking web sites.
Throughout the nation, more than 4.9 million children (7 percent) of the children under age 18 live in grandparent-headed households. Approximately 2.7 million children live with grandparents who are responsible for most of the basic needs of the children living with them. In the San Diego region, of the 66,000 older adults living with their grandchildren, approximately 21,000 are primarily responsible for their grandchildren’s daily needs.
Grandparents raising their grandchildren reside throughout our region, and come from all walks of life, ethnicities and income levels. The majority are married, below the age of 55 and part of our labor force. In order to meet their grandchildren’s needs, they must navigate a complex network of health, educational and social services, oftentimes without any assistance. The children they are caring for may have difficult physical, behavioral and emotional problems, often due to the challenging situations that led to their placement with their grandparents. Grandparents face challenges in establishing their authority to make medical and educational decisions for their children. As a result, grandparents are often unable to access information from schools or medical and social service benefits on behalf of their grandchildren. They are not eligible for child support, unless they become their grandchildren’s formal guardian.
County reforms to improve the quality of life of foster children have increasingly included the use of relative placement and have contributed to this societal phenomena by placing more children in the care of their grandparents.
There are currently some limited services available to assist grandparents, like the YMCA’s Kinship Navigator Program (funded through a three-year federal demonstration project) and YMCA respite services funded by Aging & Independence Services utilizing federal funding. The YMCA has noted a significant waiting list for their services and the need for support and assistance far outstrips the available resources. The majority of the grandparents they are serving need information about available services, programs and resources in their community, and also need assistance in accessing these services and programs.
Grandparents often identify a need for financial assistance, respite care, and help dealing with governmental agencies to access benefits for their grandchildren. More than a third of the grandparents also communicate a need for childcare and assistance to address their grandchildren’s emotional and/or behavioral problems and a fourth indicate a need for legal assistance in order to best fulfill their responsibilities to their grandchildren.
In light of these issues, it is necessary to seek broad community input to identify the needs of these grandparents and to create a network of resources and support to assist this population. HHSA would provide leadership for this effort from Aging & Independence Services, and include other departments such as Veterans Services, Child Welfare Services, Child Support Services, Public Health, Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Services, Probation, Housing and Community Development, Strategic Planning and Operational Support, regional general managers and partners such as the Commission on Children, Youth and Families, First 5 Commission, 2-1-1 San Diego and the YMCA Kinship Navigator Program to develop a strategic plan to address these needs.
Adoption of today’s recommendations would enable the Chief Administrative Officer to return to the Board within 180 days with recommendations in an action plan to support grandparents responsible for raising their grandchildren.
Linkage to the County of San Diego Strategic Plan
Today’s item is consistent with the County of San Diego’s Kids Strategic Initiative as the focus of this effort is to provide support for children and their families, including grandparents.
Supervisor, First District