Kinship care – a term often used when grandparents step in to raise their grandchildren – is a complex relationship with a unique set of challenges for all family members. It’s a growing phenomenon across the country, with more than 2.5 million grandparents taking on responsibility for the youth in their family, according to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). Grandparents often find themselves in this role because their own children may be incarcerated, dealing with drug and/or alcohol addiction, struggling with mental illness or otherwise unavailable to parent their children. Even though most grandparents feel their grandchildren fare better being raised by a family member, tension, resentment and desperation commonly arise from the stress and unexpected demands placed upon them by necessity.
Matt and his grandmother typify the conundrum of such relationships. Because of his mother’s drug addiction, Matt was sent to live with his grandmother. When WYS met Matt, he was angry, lost, and depressed. His grandmother struggled with her own range of feelings and doubts about her ability to rear another generation.
A WYS mental health professional worked with Matt to help make sense of the turmoil, while his grandmother joined our Caregiver’s Group to learn parenting skills and gain support from other people, like her, in kinship care roles.
As a result of what they learned, Matt says he feels more loved and cared for by his grandmother. Since setting boundaries with him and employing other techniques, his grandmother is enjoying Matt’s more positive attitude toward her. She found ways to reduce her fear that she might create a similar outcome of her adult child in Matt, finding new confidence in her ability to parent. This allowed her to experience the joy of being a grandparent.