Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On mental health: grandparents raising grandchildren

By Oscar Wright

You assumed that your days of raising children were over. But surprisingly, a twist of fate happens with little or no advance notice. You have to raise your grandchildren, and one child experiences a severe mental disorder.

When parents are rendered unable to care for their children because of incarceration, poverty, substance abuse, or some serious health condition, grand families often become primary caregivers. Though supportive, many are unprepared.

Census data indicate about 7.8 million children in the United States are living in households headed by a grandparent or other relative; 5.8 million children live in grandparent homes alone. Particularly in the case of grandparents caring for children with mental health issues, an analysis of this emerging trend reveals both a crisis of support and an opportunity to serve the unmet needs of these aging caregivers.

From a positive perspective, nurturing grandparents allow children to flourish by:

1. Enabling siblings to stay together.

2. Allowing children to stay in contact with family members.

3. Reducing the number of out of home placements.

4. Stabilizing care.

5. Raising children who thrive in a more loving environment.

On the other hand, the care of young children experiencing mental health challenges is particularly intense and physically demanding. Grandparents may experience frustration of shame or guilt about their own child’s inability to care for the grandchild. Stress-related conditions such as depression and hypertension are not uncommon. Family relationships can be strained and custody disputes may aggravate the situation. In addition, when grandparents assume responsibility for young children unexpectedly, they may face increased strain because of low or limited incomes. For example, with 70 percent of grandparents under the age of 60, many are too young to qualify for Medicare, Social Security and other public benefits available to seniors.

So, how do we help these heroes of hope? Grand families need time out from the physical, mental and emotional demands of daily care-giving. Respite care provides temporary relief for caregivers from the ongoing responsibility of caring for an individual, children in this case, with special needs. It is important to note that respite care is not child care. Respite care is an opportunity to re-energize and refuel to meet unrelenting challenges. With quality respite care, grandparents have time to participate in support groups, obtain services so families can function effectively, or secure health services that protect their ability to raise special needs children.

In December 2006, Congress passed, and the president signed, the Lifespan Respite Care Act.

It is up to Congress to continue providing funding each year. On the state level, we must engage the participation of grand families in the design and implementation of respite care programs. Not only should grand families become a targeted group for respite care but they should also be intricately involved in the development and implementation of these programs.

Grand families can access a treasure trove of resources at the Grand Families State Law and Policy Resource Center: Also, to find a respite program in your area, contact the National Respite Locator: 919-490-5577 x233, or the California Respite Association at 707-644-4491:

Remember these words during your silent moments of reflection: There’s probably silver in your hair, but it’s the gold in your heart that we love. Thanks grandma and grandpa!

I’d like to hear from readers at

— Oscar Wright, Ph.D., is the CEO of United Advocates for Children and Families, a statewide nonprofit that provides support to parents, families, children and youth experiencing mental health challenges. Visit UACF at

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Frank, Peterman, Davis Bicycles! get us from here to there

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Local professor subdues unruly man on flight

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A3

    Family fiction in miniature showcased at bookstore event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Meditation, Buddhism classes offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Seniors can get tips for getting around town

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    School has garden plots for rent

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Sugar overload, on ‘Davisville’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Rotarians, students, teachers, parents collaborate on planter boxes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Yolo Crisis Nursery is in crisis; please help

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Check out the night sky

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Hop to it: Easter Bunny meets Davis history tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Garden doctor: Veggie gardening available year-round

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Animal expert explains dogs’ thinking

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    Are we there yet?: Self-reflections of a would-be stage mom

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A8Comments are off for this post



    Still supporting this guy

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

    Urban forest under siege

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Drought care for our trees

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6



    UCD staff allows 19 hits in Causeway rout

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS softball struggles in nonleague outing

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils open Boras Classic by splitting games

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    JV/frosh roundup: DHS sweeps a trio of baseball games

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Baseball roundup: River Cats get by Grizzlies at Raley

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Giants beat L.A. in 12

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Sports briefs: Stanford sends Aggies home with a lacrosse loss

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery





    Craft Center exhibit explores ‘Possibilities’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    RootStock to host wine themed plein aire exhibit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    The California Honeydrops to bring danceable groove to The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    See Flower Power exhibit at Gallery 625

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Red Union Blue inks record deal

    By Landon Christensen | From Page: A9 | Gallery







    Comics: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6