grandfather & grandson playing game

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

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The Skipped Generation Family

In Canada, more than 32,000 children aged 14 and under are living in a skipped generation family. That is, in a home where grandparents are raising grandchildren. 

In the skipped generation family, the parents are not there for their children due to distressful life events, such as:

  • death or serious injury
  • chronic health problems, including:
    • mental illness
    • addiction
  • incarceration.

For some grandparents, their relationship with grandkids is fun and easy. They engage in social activities and family get-togethers. They offer occasional babysitting. For others, to their surprise, the role is much more daunting. They find themselves raising their grandchildren. They form what is referred to as a “skipped generation family.” 

In his personal story,  Raising Grandkids: Inside Skipped Generation Families, Gary Garrison describes the journey.

“We raise these grandkids because they’re ours; they’re members of our family, and we love them. Despite the anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, expense, loss of freedom, and frustrated dreams of retirement, we still love them.” 

Gary Garrison, Author

Issues for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Grandparents raising grandchildren face many challenges. Dr. Peter Nieman, Calgary pediatrician, describes the common issues that need to be navigated:  

  • dealing with the legal system
  • seeking financial aid
  • adjusting to change
  • setting new expectations (for their own lives)
  • dealing with the lack of involvement of the biological parents
  • delaying retirement plans
  • helping the grandchild with emotional issues

Programs

It is clear that grandparents need information and support to take on their role of raising their grandchildren. Here are some programs. 

Kinship Care, Alberta

Kinship care is an extended family home that’s approved to care for a child or youth in care. The caregiver must have a family relationship or significant connection to the child; for example, grandparent, aunt or close family friend.  Supports for kinship care are similar to the supports provided to a child and caregivers in foster care.

Includes a Kinship Care Handbook: A toolkit for kinship caregivers.
https://www.alberta.ca/become-kinship-caregiver.aspx

Alberta Foster & Kinship Association

The Alberta Foster & Kinship Association is a non-profit, charitable organization that: 

  • provides support to foster and kinship families
  • advocates for the rights of children
  • educates the community about foster and kinship care
  • provides and arranges for training and social gatherings
  • and serves as a liaison between foster and kinship families and Alberta Child and Family Services Division.

Learn more at: 
Alberta Foster and Kinship Association (AFKA)
https://www.afkaonline.ca

Reading

Gary Garrison. Raising Grandkids: Inside Skipped-Generation Households. University of Regina Press. 2018

Sandra Werle. Our Grandfamily. Friesen Press

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