For nearly 40 years, National Grandparents Day has been celebrated as an opportunity to express gratitude for all that grandparents do for families and communities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Profile, America Facts for Features, in 1970, Marian McQuade initiated a campaign to establish a day to honor grandparents. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a federal proclamation, declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day.
Across the U.S., not only are grandparents appreciated for sharing their time, wisdom, and values, but they are currently stepping up to raise over 7.2 million children under the age of 18 whose biological parents are unable to do so, thus keeping the children out of the foster care system. In Florida, 11% of children live in homes where householders are grandparents or other relatives.
Locally, in Leon County, there are more than 2,000 grandparent-headed families, where:
- 13.1% of the grandparents are 60 years and older
- 39.8% of these families live below the poverty level
- Nearly 50% of these families have had the children for 5 or more years
The reasons as to why so many grandparents are raising grandchildren are many and varied. Nationally, substance abuse causes more than one third of this type of placement. Nevertheless, because of a grandparent’s selfless devotion and generosity to the needs of others, grandparents are, in fact, owed a great deal of thanks for their altruism.
As one grandmother exclaimed, “For my 50th birthday, I got a 2 year-old. My story isn’t unique.” In fact, grandparent roles in children’s lives are so significant that the Grandparents as Parents (GaP) Program of the Tallahassee Senior Foundation, funded by the Leon County Commission, grants, and donations, has a program and support group just for them! According to Karen Boebinger, GaP Program Coordinator, “The GaP program provides moral support and resource assistance to these grandfamilies who are trying to navigate through their new lifestyle.”
AARP® has streamlined the gathering of relevant information pertinent to this nationwide dilemma. The AARP® resource, Grand Families Fact Sheet, includes state-specific data and programs available, as well as information about public benefits, educational assistance, legal relationship options, and state laws. This fact sheet also contains many other resource tools such as the National Council on Aging’s questionnaire that helps grandparent caregivers and/or the children they are raising determine if they qualify for certain programs that pay for food, an increase in income, and/or home and healthcare costs. Once the questionnaire is completed, the website generates a list of eligible programs and contact information. (www.aarp.org/quicklink)
Take a moment today and every day to give thanks and appreciation for the thousands of grandparents in our community and around the country for the service they do for children. One thing is for certain: grandparents are more valuable to their grandchildren and communities than ever. Grandparents are indispensable and important people.
Want more information about supporting GaP or do you need support yourself? Contact Karen Boebinger, GaP Program Coordinator, at 850-891-4027 or email@example.com.