How you can help grandparents face financial issues when parenting grandchildren




In a previous article we talked about how to help grandparents prepare their home for grandkids who come to stay. This post will discuss the financial issues these grandparent face when the grandkids come to live with them and how you, the church, can help these families.

There are many reasons grandkids come to live with grandparents. Some of these situations include problems with physical abuse, criminal activity, substance abuse, or mental health issues. (For a more exhaustive list click here.)

If a child has to be removed from the home, the first place a state agency looks to is relatives; this is more commonly known as kinship care. Grandparents are usually the first kin the state approaches. The state prefers to keep children with family members because it allows for the children to stay connected to the family and to family customs and cultural traditions.

More than likely the grandparents’ budget is going to be strained when the grandkids come to live with them. Usually there will be no child support or any other financial assistance from the parents of these children. Many grandparents will be retired and living on a fixed or limited income. How can they stretch their budget to include one, two, or even more people coming to live with them?

Let’s explore some of the areas to be considered when providing full-time care, the cost involved, and how you can help.

Setting up the home

Most grandparents will not have age-appropriate furniture and toys. A place to store the children’s clothes needs to be provided, along with any toys and other accessories the children bring with them.  

In some situations, such as when children have to be removed from a drug-infested environment, they will not be allowed to bring anything with them, even clothes or their favorite blankie. Clothes, diapers, toys, etc., will need to be provided.

How your church can help

Church family can step in and provide much of these needed items. Gently used clothes, toys, a dresser or desk can be donated by church members. Perhaps diapers from the nursery can be given to the family.

If it is older children, then a computer may be needed for homework assignments. Not only can the church family be approached for a computer, perhaps someone from the church could help the grandparents become computer savvy if needed.

Meals and snacks

Providing enough food for growing kids can be a challenge for someone who has been used to preparing a meal for two people or maybe only oneself. When my three grandkids came to live with me, I was astonished at the amount of food they ate. The first few meals I had to scurry around and prepare more food before the meal was over. It seems like the first month we went to the grocery store every other day.

Grandparents may not be families with the types of food young children need. They may not be aware of the more popular snacks school-age kids need to take to school.

How your church can help

If the grandchildren happen to arrive in an emergency situation with little notice to the grandparents, access your church’s food pantry if available. If there is time to prepare for the grands’ arrival, then ask the church family to donate food. This can be done discreetly by approaching families in the grandparents’ small group or Sunday School class. Or with the grandparents’ permission, you can make it a church-wide event.

One idea is to have a “can party” where everyone brings cans to church to be given to the newly formed family. Another suggestion is to “pound” the new family. This is where church members bring a pound of something to be given to the grandparents.

The first few days church members who have children and who know how much kids can eat can provide precooked meals. Recipes can accompany these meals so grandma and grandpa can learn to cook them.

Child care

If the grandparents still work full time, all-day child care can become a huge issue. Finding quality care for someone who knows nothing about child care or day care can be daunting. It can also be cost-prohibitive, with care costing the same as a monthly house payment in many situations, especially for an infant or preschool-age child.

How your church can help

If the church has a child care, allow the grandparents free access to the child care. Another option is to access stay-at-home moms who might be willing to care for the children at a nominal fee. A third option is to check out the child cares and after-school programs in your area to see what is available. Grandparents who haven’t had to access day care in years simply don’t know the questions to ask. Pair up the grandparents with church members who are happy with their child care arrangements and ask them to assist in finding placement for the grandchildren.

As for funding, there are government subsidies for child care. More on that in the “Government assistance” section below.

Medical issues

If the grandparents are still working and have health insurance, the grandchildren might be able to be added to their policy. If it’s not possible to provide health insurance via the grandparents, most states allow the child to be covered under Medicaid if legal guardianship has been obtained. (More on that below.)

Many grandchildren will need counseling or other special consideration if they are grieving or have experienced a trauma. Finding a counselor, a child development specialist, and even a pediatrician can be intimidating.

How your church can help

Help the grandparents research health insurance for the grandchildren. Ask parents of young children to provide the name and contact information for the pediatrician they use. Ask around about counselors and child development specialists, and give a list to the grandparents.

Legal issues

Many times grandparents will pay out of pocket to obtain legal support: legal guardianship, power of attorney, and court visits.

How your church can help

If your church has legal counsel, check with them to obtain the names of lawyers who can assist in kinship care.

Respite care

Providing full-time care for young children can be exhausting. There will be many grandparents who will need to access some kind of respite care, even if it’s just a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. The cost of a babysitter for this time can be cost-prohibitive.

How your church can help

Find families with a child the same age as the grandchild who would be willing to take the grandchild in for a Saturday or even for a weekend free of charge.

Other areas where grandparents might need financial assistance are school supplies; after-school activities; and out-of-pocket expenses for school trips or school events such as field trips, band trips, etc. Churches that have benevolent funds might be able to access those funds to help in some of these situations.

Financial assistance

Some churches have funds set aside to help grandparents who are parenting. It might be called “kinship care” or “foster care assistance.” If your church or denomination doesn’t have access to funding, there are several government agencies where assistance is available. Some are federal agencies, while others are state agencies. Every state is different, so check your state to find out what is available. In most states the agency is called Children and Family Services.

Most of the state or federal programs are for low-income or limited-income families. Keep in mind that some grandparents who take in their grandchildren are retired and living on a fixed income. Some are barely surviving before the grandchildren come to live with them, so they might fall within the guidelines for assistance.

Government assistance

Every state is different in what these helpful resources are called, and each state has its own rules. This list will get you started in what to research in your area.

  • Cash assistance or Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) offers cash for low-income families. There are different rules for receiving this assistance. Sometimes the grandchild can receive benefits under the child-only grant. In some states this is called TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).
  • TCA – Relative Caregiver Program provides assistance for children living with relative caregivers and the cash assistance amount may be higher than TCA.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays monthly cash benefits for families with physically disabled children or children with mental health issues.
  • Food and nutrition assistance in my state (Florida) helps families with limited income, such as grandparents who are on a fixed income.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides a monthly stipend to purchase foods that are nutritious. In order for grandparents to apply for this assistance, the grandchild must be age five or under
  • Child Care Assistance (or it could be called School Readiness Program) helps working grandparents supplement the cost of child care, and it can include extended-day, extended-year, and school-age care.
  • Head Start / Early Head Start is for children from birth to age five. The programs assist the grandparents in providing care for very young children and concentrate on school readiness as well.

It is important to reach out to the people in your congregation who might assume the role of parenting their grandchildren. As stated earlier in this post, sometimes it is an emergency situation. The grandparents may be the only secure place for these children to go. They might be the only Christian relationship the child has with anyone. Grandparents can make a huge difference in the life of a grandchild, but sometimes they are going to need help, and that help can come from your church.


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