Education Editorial: Grandfamilies

By: Bill Bosher - email

While the numbers may swing with the economy, there is a new family structure that has been gaining momentum, "grandfamilies."

About five million young people under the age of 18 live in homes that are headed by grandparents. Approximately 51% of those families are white; 24% are Black, and 19% are Hispanic.

While grandparents may come to the task with extraordinary experience, it was not typically a part of their planning.

Retirement scenarios are shot, and financial planning again includes college and healthcare as well as the many fees and costs associated with a K-12 education.

If Baby Boomers have trouble communicating with Generation X and Y, imagine being 65 and trying to talk to a teenager or middle school student about what is relevant.

The beauty of being a grandparent is that you are able to forget everything that you knew about discipline…another cookie…ice cream…or TV show…fine! Grandparents wrote the book on "spoil and return".

But as with most responsible "leaders", you treat the situation differently if you plan to live with it. For the night is not the same as for good.

"Grandfamilies" are truly heroes. While not the hand that they expected, most play it as though their lives…and the lives of their grandchildren depended on it.

Laws and services clearly have not caught up with this new family. Schools, social services, the courts, and legislative bodies need to recognize the demands on grandparents. Often overlooked because they do not meet the criteria for other "at risk" populations, they are just as much in need.

While some would ask why parenting would be relegated to those with the least experience, it is clearly a sprint and not a jog. If grandparents are expected to run, again, with the peers or their children, they should clearly benefit from a system of handicapping.