Grandchildren are Wonderful, but They Won't Go Away!

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Babies, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

The great thing about grandkids is supposed to be that you can love them to pieces, but you don't have have to live with them.

But a lot of grandparents who thought they were done with day-to-day child rearing are smiling weakly these days, as they realize the little, uh, darlings are not going away.

In fact, the Washington Post reports the number of children being reared by their grandparents has jumped as the economy has taken a dive. Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center, one in 10 children in the United States now lives with a grandparent.

For most of the 21st century or so, that number had been rising, but slowly and steadily. The Post reports it spiked when the recession hit. Now, 2.9 million kids -- that's 4 percent of all children -- are being raised by one or more grandparent.

The trend is most noticeable among white families. Numbers from the Pew Center say the number of white kids living with their grandparents rose 9 percent between 2007 and 2008. Among black families, that number was only 2 percent. Among Hispanic families, there was no change.

More and more families are becoming like the Waltons, that harmonious Depression-era family from the 1970s TV series where three generations lived under the same roof. In fact, the Pew Center also reports that the number of multiple generation households is higher than it has been in half a century because of unemployment and foreclosures.

But don't be getting too nostalgic.

Grandparents aren't just stepping in because of the economy. If this were "The Waltons," it could be that Grandpa Walton is taking in John Boy because mama Olivia is on crack and living in sin with Ike Godsey.

The Post reports there has been a nationwide effort to have kids from troubled homes move in with grandparents and other relatives, rather than send them to foster homes.

Other reasons are not quite so dysfunctional. With wars overseas, many soldiers on deployment are leaving their children in the care of grandparents.

Meanwhile, the Post reports, many states have cut programs that once provided financial and emotional support for so-called "kinship families," where children are reared by relatives. And, of course, many senior citizens find themselves too old to care for children and with limited financial resources themselves.

"People who haven't struggled or needed services in the past need it now," Cathy Tompkins, the director of the undergraduate social work program at George Mason University and a researcher in gerentology. She is working with Fairfax County, Va., to assess needs of people providing kinship care.

However, grandparents are not necessarily retired. The Pew Center reports the average age of a grandparent caring for a child is 57.

"They're preparing for retirement, and a lot of times their retirement savings is going down the drain," Amy Goyer, a family expert with AARP, tells the Post. "They lost it or it was undermined by the economic situation, and now they're spending it on family. It puts the grandparents' generation in jeopardy, as well."

Related: Failure to Stay Launched: Boomerang Kids Moving Back Home

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