Health

Resources Available for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

GrandparentsStewarts

It’s becoming more common for grandparents to raise their grandchildren these days. In San Diego County, there are more than 24,000 families where grandparents have primary responsibility for their grandchildren.

In the case of 76-year-old Troy Stewart and his 81-year-old wife Virginia, they’ve skipped another generation entirely. The Stewarts are raising their 9- and 11-year-old great-grandchildren.

The boys are in sixth grade and fourth grade. The couple took responsibility for them after their parents’ home burned down in the 2003 Ramona fire. The parents divorced soon after and decided to relinquish custody of the children. The boys’ grandmother, one of Troy’s daughters, was unemployed, in school and unable to take care of them. So the Stewarts stepped in rather than see their great-grandsons go into foster care.

“It’s hard to keep up with the boys,” Troy said. “And I can’t go very fast.”

Fortunately, other family members live nearby and help the couple out.

San Diego County also offers assistance. To help families like the Stewarts, Supervisor Greg Cox asked the County’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) to work with the YMCA, 211 San Diego, First 5 San Diego and other community partners to provide special programs and resources.

The resources are designed to address the unique challenges faced by these families.

The website www.211sandiego.org/grandparents has links to child care, employment and educational opportunities, financial and housing support, legal services, transportation links and more. There is also a comprehensive handbook – available in English and Spanish – for grandparents and other relatives raising children. 

HHSA’s Aging & Independence Services also helps fund the YMCA Kinship program that coordinates support groups for relatives who are raising children and helps the YMCA with summer camps and other resources.

“The Kinship program has been very helpful,” Troy says. “You meet other grandparents and discuss the many problems.

“I could see that I wasn’t as bad off as some of them.”

Raising grandchildren or great grandchildren often brings joy, excitement and a renewed purpose to the lives of older adults. Troy says that at one point in his life after a series of physical problems, he was preparing himself and his family to take no extraordinary measures to keep him alive.

But as his role of parent for Jordan and Brandon grew, “I changed my attitude toward end of life issues,” he says. “My outlook on life has really changed. I want to see these kids graduate, to marry. I want to be there as long as I can for them.”

Plus the great-grandchildren have been teaching him all about technology. According to Troy, he can now easily navigate email, pay bills online and update his Facebook page.

“If I can’t do something, I go to them and they say, ‘Grandpa, just push this and that…’”

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact