By Shawndi Purselley, CFP®, CDFA®, Owner and Co-Founder, Wealth Advisor
My mother was very young when I was born. We lived at home with my grandparents and my aunts. Six years later, my mother and I moved from my grandparent’s home as my mother was getting married. Two short years later, we were back at home with my grandparents. Not long after, my mother was once again dragging me away to marry again. I did not stay gone long and by the time I was in fifth grade I was home for good with my grandparents.
My father had no desire to be my dad as he had a new family and daughter to care for. My father did provide my medical insurance through his employer and he did make a child support payment here and there. Through the years, my mother’s behavior had spiraled out of control due to mental illness and a severe substance abuse problem. I experienced most of my mother’s initial spiral downward before returning to my grandparents. However, I was somehow still well-adjusted and grounded through it all. I was happy, healthy and content with my grandparents and preferred their company as opposed to my biological parents.
As well-adjusted as I think I was, I know my grandparents struggled with the downfall of my mother and the guilt they felt with wondering what they could have done differently to help her situation. I also often believe that due to having to serve as parents to me, they weren’t very good grandparents to the other grandchildren they weren’t raising. I think they somehow felt these grandchildren didn’t need them as much as I did. So instead they focused most of their attention to handling me. They also struggled with how to have an open conversation with me about my mother and father. They chose instead to just sweep the subject under the rug.
I didn’t really realize or think through the emotional and financial toll it took on my grandparents to raise me until I was much older. They continued to raise two more grandchildren from one of my aunts after I left home. They had a lot of deep seeded guilt and resentment and I believe it burdened them during their older years. However, they were very private and never sought out professional help and/or resources that were openly available to them. That is why I am writing this blog – if you are in this situation, there are many organizations and resources available to you and your family to help with raising grandchildren. You do not have to do it alone or pretend that everything is okay.
Here are some resources available to help families who were in a situation like my family was:
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPS). Most of us receive health insurance through a job or programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, or through the ACA Marketplace. One plan that I recommend looking into is CHIPS. CHIPS is a partnership between states and the federal government to provide low-cost health care coverage to children in homes that make too much money for Medicaid, but may still be considered low-income.
- The Gap Program provides services to grandparents who are caring and/or raising grandchildren. It may provide in-home assessments, case management services and support groups.
- AARP is a great resource for grandparents. This link will send you to a PDF document containing pages of resources https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/relationships/friends-family/grandfacts/grandfacts-texas.pdf
- The website Raising Your Grandchildren is a great web resource that provides information on some state specific programs. The website is http://www.raisingyourgrandchildren.com/State_information.htm. Then you are able to scroll down to your specific state.
- Official Website of the US Government regarding childcare, https://www.usa.gov/child-care. This site also provides helpful information on child care providers, collecting child support and specific help for children living with grandparents.
If you are a grandparent raising your grandchildren, kudos to you and the job you are doing. I know it can be a thankless responsibility to take on, especially when the family dynamics are strained. However, I also know that you are doing something so profoundly great and your grandchildren will one day thank you for being their guardian angel. I know I sure feel this way about my beautiful grandparents. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without them.