University of Illinois Extension

Grandparenting: A Growing Concern

Molly Hofer, Family Life Educator

If you are raising your grandkids, you are not alone. The 2000 Census revealed that 4,533,016 children under the age of 18 live in a grandparent-headed household, either with or without a parent present. This number represents 6.3 percent of children in the United States and is nearly 30 percent higher than the 1990 Census. These families come from all walks of life.

Illinois ranks fourth nationally with 213,465 children living in homes headed by their grandparent(s). This accounts for 6.6 percent of children in Illinois. Nearly 135,000 of these children live in Chicago and suburban Cook County.

Why the rise in grandparent caregiving? Many factors contribute to the trend, including substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, illness, death, divorce, poverty, neglect, abuse or abandonment. No matter what the reason, major changes typically occur in the lives of the grandparents who take on the responsibility of raising their children's children.

Even though many grandparents are quick to highlight the rewards of taking care of their grandkids, there are challenges. As a parenting grandparent, you may have trouble enrolling your grandchildren in school or obtaining medical care because you are not the parent.

You may be living on a fixed retirement income, not having the financial means to care for your grandchildren. Or, your grandkids may be experiencing physical, emotional or behavioral problems, or be grieving over the loss of their parent(s). Or, maybe you simply lack the energy it takes to raise a second family.

In Illinois, some help is available from state programs and/or community resources. Support groups are also beneficial - they offer a place where you can share and learn from caregivers who face similar issues. To find out more about resources and support groups, call the Illinois Department on Aging Senior Helpline at 1-800-252-8966.