Why isn’t there more help for grandparents raising grandkids?

Nearly three million American grandparents are raising at least one of their grandchildren, but there’s hardly anywhere they can turn for support.

Here are the best national resources I’ve come across. 

I’ll be updating this list continually, so please email me if you think there’s something I should add.

The basics

GrandFamilies Guide,” an on-line booklet produced by AARP, is a good place to start if you’ve just taken your grandkids in (even though some of the links you’ll be referred to are broken). The guide touches on how to apply for legal guardianship, how to find government support, how to cope with chronic stress, and much more.

Resources near you

At the useful website Grandfacts, you can input your state to search for help close to home. Depending on where you live, you may find support groups, non-profits, and government programs for grandparents raising grandkids in your area.

The site, which is a collaboration between The Brookdale Foundation, the Children’s Defense Fund, AARP, the Child Welfare League of America, and Generations United, also provides state-specific information on custody laws.

Going to court

This article, published by the Grandfamilies State Law and Policy Resource Center, is a close look at your legal options as a grandparent caregiver, which vary by state and include adoption, temporary guardianship, and “de facto custody.” (The article was written for lawyers, but it’s in plain language.)

If you need a lawyer, this page from the American Bar Association may help. The National Indian Child Welfare Association helps Native grandparents navigate the legal system.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Regardless of your income, your grandkids may qualify for “child-only” benefits from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This pamphlet, from Generations United, provides details and application information. If you want to skip the pamphlet and just apply for the benefits, you can find your state’s TANF office here.

Other government help

Your grandchildren may also qualify for free milk and baby food (through a program called WIC), food stamps (which are now called SNAP), free school lunchesMedicaid, low-cost childcare, and Head Start. Special childcare options are available to some military families.

If you’re raising grandchildren with disabilities, this comprehensive guide from Generations United will help you navigate the maze of services and benefits they may qualify for. This supplement to the guide, a list of resources, may help, too.

A small number of publicly funded apartment communities have been created specifically for grandparents raising their grandchildren. Contact your local housing authority to find out if there’s one near you.

Child health and development

Healthy Children, an encyclopedic website from the American Academy of Pediatrics, provides up-to-date, scientifically accurate tips on keeping kids healthy and safe. Here, you can enter your zip code to find a pediatrician or a pediatric specialist.

The University of Wisconsin has published an excellent series of brochures for grandparents about the common issues children face when they’re separated from their parents. There’s advice on helping them deal with loss, communicate their feelings, forge new friendships, and more.

The non-profit Zero To Three posts research-based tips on raising young children. Topics include developmental milestones, challenging behaviors, and school readiness.

The non-profit Common Sense Media helps adults choose high-quality, developmentally appropriate books, movies, music, and apps for kids.

Families of addicts

Many grandparents are raising their grandkids because someone in the middle generation is struggling with drug addiction. At this page, maintained by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, you can connect with hotlines and treatment programs.

Families of inmates

These free handbooks, published by The Osborne Association, offer advice to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because one or both parents are incarcerated. (To download them, click on the green text at the bottom of the page I’ve linked to and follow the prompts).

Some of the information is tailored to families in New York state.

Self-care

This article, published by the British non-profit Grandparents Plus, offers advice on taking care of yourself as you raise your grandchildren. There are tips on managing anxiety, depression, and stress and creating a healthy lifestyle.

Here’s an active Facebook community for grandparents raising grandchildren.