By Michelle Talsma Everson
Sunday, September 13 is National Grandparents Day, a special time to recognize the grandparents in our lives and all that they do. With the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations may look a little different this year though as families figure out how to celebrate grandparents from a distance to keep them safe. One group of seniors who don’t have the option to social distance from their grandchildren are grandparents who are raising them. According to Grandfamilies.org, more than 60,000 grandparents in Arizona are responsible for their grandchildren.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, grandparents (who are often older adults and high risk) are now also juggling childcare and helping children with online school. Duet: Partners In Health & Aging, a nonprofit that supports grandparents raising grandchildren, shares some insights from local grandparents on raising grandchildren during the pandemic:
“I suffer from COPD and rely on oxygen. Having to wear a mask with this condition whenever I leave the house is a significant challenge,” says Marsha, who is raising one grandchild. “Online schooling is and will continue to be a challenge. My grandson is naturally not very interested in school. I am afraid that online learning will be a struggle for our family moving forward.”
“My husband and I both have underlying medical conditions. Since the start of the pandemic, I have found myself a bit paranoid at times, due to fear of contracting the virus,” says Victoria, who is raising three grandchildren. “On top of these feelings and fear, my sister had a stroke around the same time, causing even more stress for my family. It has been hard for my grandchildren to adapt to this new normal. It’s been hard for them not being able to see and hug their friends. As for online learning, it has been hard to locate the correct material that the children will need once it starts.”
Grandparents may end up raising grandchildren for a variety of reasons, including incarceration, drug and alcohol addiction, abuse or neglect, death, or other factors. When this happens, many organizations, nonprofits and other resources are there to support these grandfamilies as they navigate challenges like custody, financial resources, support and more. Many of these nonprofits, like Duet, have made adjustments to their services to keep grandfamilies safe—such as moving support groups online, etc. Be sure to visit each one’s website for the latest information.
Resources for Grandfamilies
Arizona Family Resources
Available at azfamilyresources.org, this website—supported by AASK (Aid to Adoption of Special Kids)—provides information on the foster care system, which many grandparents raising grandchildren have to navigate. AASK’s website, aask-az.org, also offers kinship licensing, case management and advocacy.
Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors (AZGA)
With more info available at azga.org, the AZGA is a “volunteer support network of grandparents who are raising grandchildren. The group hosts “informative workshops, monthly steering committee meetings and quarterly newsletter for members.”
This easy-to-navigate website serves as a “national legal resource in support of grandfamilies within and outside the child welfare system.” Users can easily navigate a variety of pertinent topics and access an Arizona-specific fact sheet that lists many local organizations that help kinship caregivers. GrandFamiles.org served as a resource for the information in this article.
Duet is a local nonprofit that offers support throughout Maricopa County for grandparents raising grandchildren through free-of-charge support groups, legal guidance and assistance, funds for extracurricular activities, information and guided assistance, educational workshops and grandfamily outings. Learn more at duetaz.org/grandparents-raising-grandchildren.
Arizona Caregiver Coalition
According to the Arizona Caregiver Coalition, “Our sole purpose is to support caregivers and their families. We offer support and help finding access to information, assistance, answers, new ideas and helpful options for you and your loved one.” Through the coalition, grandparents may be eligible for respite reimbursement. Learn more at AZCaregiver.org.
Department of Child Safety (DCS)
DCS offers many resources to kinship caregivers, including a potential stipend and other support services. Visit dcs.az.gov/fosteradoption/kinship-foster-caregivers for more information.
Through the Grandfamily/Kinship Caregiver Program, Benevilla assists Northwest Valley families with “information and referral, support groups, family fun events, educational workshops, newsletters, holiday programs, and individual counseling.” Find out more at benevilla.org/family-resource-center.
Kinship and Adoption, Resource and Education (KARE)
Serving Phoenix and Tucson, KARE offers “Legal support, support groups in English and Spanish, kinship navigation services, recreational activities for families and youth, information, referral and connection services to community resources.” Services vary upon location; arizonakinship.org.
2nd Time Parenting
Found at 2ndtimeparenting.org, this local nonprofit’s mission is to “provide resources and support to grandparents raising grandchildren. Our goal is to educate, empower and inspire grandparents and their grandchildren.” To find out more, e-mail [email protected].
AARP Foundation’s Benefits QuickLink
According to GrandFamilies.org, “QuickLINK, powered by BenefitsCheckUp of the National Council on Aging, offers a free and private way to complete a questionnaire to find out if relatives and/or the children they are raising qualify for certain programs that pay for food, increase income and cover home and healthcare costs.” Grandparents can simply fill out the questionnaire and the website generates a list of programs and contact info. Learn more at aarp.org/quicklink.