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Numbers Rising: More Grandparents Raising Grandkids

The Issue

In recent years many grandparents, treasured for the unconditional love they bestow, have taken on the added responsibilities of providing food, shelter and discipline for their grandchildren. Nearly 626,000, or 6.8% of all California children under age 18, live in grandparent households and rates within counties range from 3%-11%. Often with multiple health problems of their own, grandparents may suffer severe emotional and economic stress when confronted by the costs and tasks of raising children who themselves may have emotional, learning or physical disabilities. Also, 294,969 grandparents are sole caregivers. These problems create an urgent challenge for health and human services planners like UCCE to develop education, training and support programs to serve children at risk and their caregivers.

What Has ANR Done?

Since 1990, UCCE Alameda County has worked with grandparents who were raising their grandchildren. We teamed with the City of Oakland in a demonstration project to train 58 grandparent peer counselors on health and social issues. UCCE used U.S. census data to delineate an upward trend in the grandparenting rate in both California and the nation. Our research showed the distribution of children living with their grandparents in California, standardized rates in each county, and established priorities for health and human services. National rates were published in the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences in 2000 and California rates in the March/April 2001 issue of "California Agriculture"--with over 3,000 reprints distributed. The research on state and national trends was presented at one international, three national, 11 state and regional and many local conferences, workshops and forums. The 2002 "Parenting-Second Time Around" forum sponsored by AARP, Area 4 Agency on Aging, American River College and ANR Aging Californians Workgroup reached over 300.

The Payoff

Research used to address grandparents' needs

Our research is viewed in both California and the nation as the "gold standard" for establishing caregiver needs, setting program priorities and impacting policy making. It was a first place national award winner at the 2000 National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences annual conference. With grandparent coalitions, networks, support groups, AARP, Area Agencies on Aging and colleges/universities, we aired a national satellite conference in 2001--Grandparent Legal and Policy Issues at 13 sites and reached thousands of grandparents, service providers, students and public officials. Public and private agencies use our science-based research to justify support from legislators, funding groups, educational institutions, etc. For example, the first low income housing complex for grandparents is planned for the Greater Sacramento Grandparent Network; Grandparents Advocacy Network of Northern California has a human service grant; and UCCE assisted the California Coalition of Grandparent and Relative Caregivers to file for nonprofit corporation status to promote grandparent programs statewide.


Supporting Unit: Alameda County

Mary L. Blackburn, Ph.D MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Advisor,1131 Harbor Bay Parkway,
Suite 131, Alameda, CA 94502 (510) 639-1274