by Sarah Allan
Grandparents’ Day is a day to appreciate, recognize and celebrate every grandparent everywhere in the world. Grandparents who share time, wisdom, energy and love with grandchildren and great grandchildren; who provide child care while their children work; who spend their savings making sure their grandchildren have “a better life”; who don’t see their grandchildren and miss them dearly; and those who are raising their grandchildren 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, month after month, year after year.
In Canada, more than 65,000 children are being raised by a grandparent or other relative without any parental involvement. In British Columbia, there are almost 10,000 children who are being raised by their grandparents. This is more children than are in foster care in BC. Many of these children end up being cared for by their grandparents as the result of a crisis situation involving the child’s parents, such as the involvement of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, neglect or abandonment, drug addiction, mental health issues, incarceration or death. These amazing ‘grandparents raising grandchildren’, or ‘GRG’s’, have been referred to as the province’s ‘invisible foster care system’ as without them, the taxpayer funded foster care system would be responsible for the care and well-being of all of these children.
The Ministry of Children and Families says that “Permanent, stable relationships are a major determinant of whether children feel safe and secure and a fundamental element of well-being.” They state that, “If a child has to leave their parental home, the Ministry or Delegated Aboriginal Agency (DAA) strives to place the child with people who know the child and will maintain a positive, life-long relationship with them, their families and communities, thereby minimizing disruptions to children and their families.” In order to keep children with their families in stable and permanent living situations, GRG families need financial and social support that is currently not sufficient.
We all know that raising children is expensive, and for many grandparents, the cost of raising their grandchildren unexpectedly means that they have to postpone retirement, reduce the hours they work, go back to work after retiring, or spend their retirement savings. Most GRG’s receive no financial assistance from the children’s parents and many of their grandchildren have physical, mental, emotional or behavioural challenges that require additional supports. Many grandparents reach out seeking financial and social support to assist them in raising their grandchildren, but the benefits currently available are minimal. While foster parents and children receive monthly financial assistance and have their medical, dental and additional supports paid for, many GRG families continue to struggle.
In March 2010, BC’s Child in the Home of a Relative Program (CIHR) was cancelled. Those who were already receiving CIHR benefits (which range from $257.46 to $454.32 per month depending on the age of the child), were allowed to continue receiving it until the child reaches age 19. New GRG’s are not eligible for CIHR and no similar benefit has been enacted to replace it. What was set up is the Extended Family Program (EFP), which most GRG’s do not quality for. This financial benefit is not available to GRG’s who have legal guardianship of their grandchild, or whose adult children, the parents, are out of contact or are living in another province. This benefit is meant to be a ‘temporary’ financial support with a goal of returning children to their parents, but the situation of most GRG’s is not temporary.
GRG’s are undervalued! GRG’s care for children who might otherwise have become part of the foster care system, but these caregivers do not receive the same financial or social support that foster parent’s do. GRG’s and children being raised by their grandparents do not have access to child care, respite services, extended health and dental care or a monthly financial benefit like foster parents and children in foster care do.
This Grandparents’ Day, take a minute to call your Grandma or Grandpa, just to chat and show your appreciation for all they might have done for you.
You can also show your support for Grandparent’s Raising Grandchildren by taking action – find out how you can help by clicking here: Support GRG’s!
- Statistics Canada, 2006 Census
- BC Council for Families
- Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Legal Research Project – Parent Support Services Society of BC and University of Victoria
- Ministry of Children and Family Development 2012/2013 – 2014/2015 Service Plan