Monday, May 25, 2009

Grandparents raising grandchildren

The scale of the practice of grandparents raising grandchildren seems unknown. Yesterday a reader alerted me to some Family Court statistics regarding the application for a parenting order (or in old jargon, custody).

In 2007 alone at least 2,452 grandparents applied. The year before, an only slightly smaller number. If on average around 60,000 children are born each year it is conceivable that over 1 in 30 children is being raised by a grandparent, or will be in the future.

While there can be no doubt these children will be better off with someone who genuinely wants them, they nevertheless impose a significant burden on older people who often have limited resources (notwithstanding many grandparents are still relatively young). It is an issue that gets canvassed at each election with calls for greater financial support from government. Unexpectedly, at a Grey Power meeting, one women stood up and said, they are your flesh and blood, your grandchildren, just get on with it and stop asking for handouts.

While grandparents raising grandchildren deserve appreciation for stepping into the breach, the woman had a point. This is yet another example of people wanting the taxpayer to assume a responsibility that is actually theirs. It is exactly this type of thinking, a societal expectation that parents should be paid to produce children they cannot care for, that often lands the grandparent in the subsequent bind.


Gran said...

Obviously that woman had no idea of the ramifications of actually raising a grandchild or in many cases grandchildren. One often has to go through many years in the family court at huge expense, some having paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep at at risk child safe in Legal fees. By nature of the word grandparents are often older and many are on super. And if not, as they age and move into a fixed income the children are getting older and their financial expenses increase.
We are often not dealing with 'normal' children, many have special needs or are damaged because of what they have been through. Walk a day in our shoes! That will certainly change some thoughts. These children need counseling etc: you try and feed a 14 year old on the UCB of $185.25 per week and that must cover every part of his existance, school uniforms, books, glasses, shoes, clothing etc. It is NOT just a matter of getting on with it! Altho so many have to.
NZ bleats and moans about the shocking abuse in NZ, hang on here these grandparents are actually doing something about it. Credit where credit is due and one can not feed them on fresh air.

Grand "parenting" again said...

I agree, in a perfect world parents would not exercise their rights to own and use their children in a manner that causes you to look at your morning paper and say "poor little angel, that's another wee one who has been brutalized, killed or maimed by a parent! Why didn't someone, CYFS, the GRANDPARENTS step in and prevent this?"
Well in many many cases they do! These are the Grandparents RAISING Grandchildren!
We have seen the need or been asked by CYFS, to take on the care of at risk children.
Every time we do this it means that one child is "Fostered" with their own family not in a stranger fostered situation.
In many Foster Homes one parent is still able to earn a wage as in a normal "family" expectation, they are paid a board allowance for the foster child. This is supplemented by payments for each and every additional cost for the child's health, well being and education. The well being part covers sports participation, birthday and Christmas gifts.
The Grandparent Foster-er if lucky receives an "Unsupported Child Benefit" this is a flat rate that does not support the "additional cost for the child's health, well being and education." The well being part covering sports participation, birthday and Christmas gifts is often a great struggle for Grandparents on superannuation, or those who are struggling to hold down a job and be there for a child who has been traumatized by the whole event.
Don't "Dis" the Grands we don't do this lightly and it costs not only money but much more in emotional and physical ways than you can even imagine till you have to do it yourself!

Sally said...

Grandparents are taking on a huge responsibility for raising their grandchildren often under extremely trying conditions. Many of them are using their retirement money for the purpose of raising children, some of them barely have enough money to put food on the table. Then there is the cost of clothing, doctors, dentists, school fees & also they need to take care of themselves, so we need all the finanical assistance that is available.

I don't see this woman complaining about foster care children which costs the state more money than what grandparents who are raising their grandchildren do.

Yes, there are the joys of raising little ones the second time around, but there is the isolation from our peers who are doing the things that we can only dream of now.

Maybe she would like to give it a go & see for herself what it is really like.

We have these children 24/7.

pammie3 said...

Oh boy can you believe this women..?? I for one cannot!!! My husband and I have been raising 4(yes four) of our grandchildren for nearly two years now aging from 5 - 6 - 7 and 9yrs. We receive the Unsupported Child Benefit and frankly it goes nowhere. We are struggling to give these children a NORMAL life, like sports music lessons etc; it is very hard financially, but why should they miss out? Let these people who agree with this lady, come i n and step into our shoes for a day, bet she would change her mind. As far as a normal life for us, well there is not one. We have adult marries children living abroad with their children, we next to never get to see them any longer. think about it, they are missisng out as well! These poor kids need a loving home to come home to and who better to be their for them when their pare nts cannot!!

Lindsay Mitchell said...

As I said, you step into the breach and deserve appreciation for it.

However, none of you have addressed the last comment I made. Why are so many grandparents being left literally holding the baby?

The central tenet of this blog is that the welfare state creates need by absolving people of their responsibilities, which are passed on to others. In this case grandparents and the taxpayer.

Benefits, especially the DPB, have contributed to family breakdown. And you more than most are feeling the reality of that.

I am aware of very sad stories whereby the parent fights the grandparent to retain custody of a child for no other reason than the child guarantees them an ongoing income.

If NZ carries on doing things the way it has for the last 30 years there will be more and more grandparents raising grandchildren.

Unfortunately, and I don't mean this unkindly, you are the meat in the sandwich.

Gran said...

Research tells us that the 3 main reasons grandparents take on raising of the grandchildren are because of violence/substance abuse and mental illness.
Here is a different take on 'meat in the sandwich' in regard to Grandparents raising their grandchildren. We not only care for the grandchildren, but often mentally unwell children and indeed our elderly frail parents.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way not all parents who not able to raise their children are on a DPB

Lindsay Mitchell said...

No, but they are unlikely to be working and/or in stable relationships. Generalising (for those who aren't familiar with this blog) my contention is that violence/addiction/substance abuse problems are exacerbated, rather than reduced, by welfare.

Gran said...

I do not think there is any easy answer. Abolish the benefits/DPB whatever, then what would we see, crime go up 10 fold. Would we see starving children, forced into goodness knows what? What we also must remember is if grandparents get an UCB for the grandchildren they raise, an amount, abeit small is taken off the parent/s benefit. I suppose at least in this scenario the children are safe, secure and cared for. This is a huge issue............
You say that Benefits exacerbated the issues of violence/susbstance abuse etc. Perhaps so, but the world as we know it today also has a role to play. I could go on and on about televison, internet, DVD's etc. Can't solve the worlds probs just too darn busy making sure my patch and grandchildren we raise are OK.
Perhaps if we all did that it may be a better place!
Keep an eye out for grandparents Raising Grandchildren's Trust NZ research being released shortly.

Sally said...

We are raising our 4 1/2 year old granddaughter, she has been with us for just over 2 years. She was removed from her mothers care because she has a condition whereby she harms her children. My daughter has many children, none of them are in her care, they are all with their fathers & there was no father to step in & raise our little granddaughter.

What would you have done Lindsay? Let her go to foster care where she would have been shunted from pillar to post or place her with her grandparents where she is loved, where she is secure, where she is wanted. Foster care was not an option, so we stepped up to the plate. She will be with us until she is old enough to leave home & make her own way in the world.

Can you imagine what that is doing to our resources? Help has to come from some direction. The state provides income for those people who are raising foster children so why not to grandparents?

The parents of the children that have been left in the care of their grandparents know how to milk the system for all its worth, yet you are wanting to deny grandparents the right to financial assistance.

Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren deserve a pat on the back, they are there for their grandchildren 24/7 not an easy task when you are getting on in years & should be enjoying empty nests.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

" are wanting to deny grandparents the right to financial assistance."

Where exactly did I say that?

"The parents of the children that have been left in the care of their grandparents know how to milk the system for all its worth, yet you are wanting to deny grandparents the right to financial assistance."

Thanks for confirming that. I would rather the grandparent got the financial assistance than the parent versed in milking the system. But you are still missing my point. That the more welfare that is given, the more need it creates.

"Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren deserve a pat on the back"

I acknowledged that in my post. I am glad you were there for your granddaughter.

Sally said...

Unfortunately you are not getting the point.

I can only speak about my daughter who knows how to milk the system & not in general terms which I didn't make clear. My apologises if I stood on anyones toes.

Have you got proof that the more welfare that is given, the more need it creates?

You are fortunate to have a job that brings in a steady income. My husband would dearly love to work, but given his age no one will employ him. How do we survive once our retirement money runs out? Turning to the state for welfare assistance will be our only option, that is not creating more welfare it is just a fact of life.

If you have the answers Lindsay, please share.

Grand "parenting" again said...

Oh Boy, did you hit some nerves, mine included I must admit.
I do agree that the problem IS the DELINQUENT PARENTS, not the Gorgeous Grandparents who are stepping up to the job of caregiver again.
But having said that how would we cope with the large numbers of bad eggs who would be making even greater hell on earth for the children and the grands if we took away all means of support from them?
I am sure I don't need to tell you of the pain we face every day when we see our grandchildren and know that they have also been bereaved of the people who should have been their greatest support through life. Drugs alcohol and mental illness have killed the potential we saw in our children and left beings we have to guard against.
So while I can agree they the parents deserve little, I can't see that it would help to not support the child and his Grandparent caregiver to the utmost need.

Grand "parenting" again said...

Whoops sorry, I meant to say that should we cut the parents off entirely they would again turn on the Grands, thus making life even harder on the children.
However you look at it a citizen is a citizen! All citizens are treated equally(?). The wealthiest are not necessarily the morally "best" with regard to care of their dependents either, and may also use drugs, alcohol and be mentally ill. The fact that they may not require state assistance would not see them denied support.

Sally said...

You are correct denying parents any form of support would only harm the grandchildren.

We have to provide for these little souls that didn't ask to be born & certainly not to parents who can't or don't want to raise them.

In this debate are we losing sight that welfare is for the benefit of the grandchildren so that they can live decent lives?

Lindsay Mitchell said...

"Have you got proof that the more welfare that is given, the more need it creates?"

Let's confine the argument to working-age welfare and leave out super and unsupported child benefits.

In the 40s,50s and 60s there were never more than a few thousand people on welfare at any given time. Today there are almost 300,000.

Welfare has meant men and women don't have to support themselves, each other or their child, should they choose.

Alcohol and drugs have always been available but people tended not to become hostage to them in the numbers they do today because there was no welfare default. Children didn't come with guaranteed incomes and homes attached. The state incentivised the social breakdown that is no longer uncommon.

My beef is not with grandparents raising children. I have a great deal of sympathy for the financial, emotional and physical difficulties you face. My problem is with the system that supports, to use your words, "delinquent parents" in choosing and continuing lifestyles that are destructive to themselves and their families.

Sally said...

Lindsay if your beef is delinquent parents who are on the path to self destruct then that is the issue that needs to be addressed. But the question is how? I know from experience that my daughter was given every opportunity for counselling but decided that the easiest course of action was to continue on her slippery slope of self destruction.

Perhaps when we were growing up there were people addicted to alcohol & drugs but it was kept hush hush. We now live in a more open society where these things are talked bout.

I don't believe for one moment that the state bought about social breakdown. Drugs are more available due to the fact that people can travel more freely throughout the world. Those that want to make drugs & sell them on the street have the knowledge to do so.

Wendy said...

Lindsay, You say that the Welfare State is unsustainable economically, socially and morally.

I say that a society should be judged by how it treats its least advantaged.

Our grandchildren are some of these least advantaged as the Welfare State is unwilling to support these very vulnerable children.

In the latest budget, we are building more prisons to house those that have been disadvantaged.
Surely that is closing the door after the horse has bolted!

Our grandchildren need to be able to do the same things as their peers,: swimming lessons, ballet, music, the arts, sports etc. etc. but grandparents are not supported so that they can do these things. Thus we end up with child poverty which in turn leads to crime.

Do you have a grand plan as to what to do with these children or their parents if they are not supported by the state? Or do we just leave them to die in the streets or fill our new prisons.


Shane Pleasance said...

I am struggling to think which of these these issues should be the responsibility of the state.

My children are my responsibility. Conversely, I will also strongly react when I am dictated to as to how I bring them up by government officials who believe they know better. Certainly, if I give Gummint power over my responsibilities, they will take them. There is then a shift in moral imperative, I then 'owe' the gummint. I belong to the gummint,
I am grateful for them. I have 'entitlements'. I have no dreams, no goals. No need. Decision making becomes screwed. Who do I blame when things go wrong? Do learn? Do I care? Why should I?

Sounds like a recipe for - well, what we have, really.

Anonymous said...

Gummint you say? Says it all

Sally said...

Unfortunately you are missing the point Shane.

This is not about letting govenment take over my responsibilities or taking away my dreams nor does the government own me. I am able to make decision about what is in the best interest of my granddaughter & I'm responsible enough to do so. The government is not looking over my shoulder 24/7.

This is about safe guarding grand children & giving them a good start in life which they richly deserve. .

There are many grandparents out there struggling to survive, struggling to put food on the table for their grandchildren, struggling to make ends meet & their only option is to ask the government for help.

Grandparents don't ask for help lightly it is done out of necessity.

Unknown said...

My heart goes out to all raising grandchildren- children twice round and no doubt among us the odd great grands. I bet there are some of you. I am excited to finally here of us receiving financial care in recognition of needs to provide more fully. I worked full time untill i stepped in to raise my then 4 mth old g.s and as there was no specific benefit for us was put on a dpb and am treated as a single first or as ive had 2 children of my own treated likd a third time mother and feel almost like i am his mum. After surving bankruptcy, shock, pstd, depression guilt and exhaustion trying to cope with the antics of my own adult daughter while cyfering the very best of what i have left to impart and share with my now darling 6yr old son. My food for thougt to anyone with time to be reading this. I am 45 yrs old. My life plan had only ever been draft on paper, i am single and struggling and in no way are my grandson or i to be any better off because of the new assistance i heard mentioned on campell live......supposedly for all grandparents.