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Bringing them up as their own: Grandparents raising grandchildren (+video)

Published: Sunday, Aug. 5 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

A growing number of grandparents are parenting for a second time.

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Sally Kabak will never forget the phone call from the child welfare worker telling her that her granddaughter, just 2, was having surgery. She'd swallowed a camera battery that was now leaking acid into her stomach.

Kabak and her husband, Norman, flew to New Zealand months later to pick up that granddaughter, hoping to buy the girl's mom time to get her life together. Eventually, they adopted "Lucy," as the girl became known to Kabak's readers, the pseudonym picked by her family. Lucy soon matched her peers at every level.

"We, on the other hand, have gone through much anxiety, concern about our financial circumstances and our general wellbeing," Kabak said. She knew they weren't the only grandparents raising children again, but she felt that way. She found little assistance in online resources and launched www.raisinggrandchildren.net.nz, a website that offers support and resources to those raising their grandchildren. The site took off.

The Kabaks are among hundreds of thousands of couples raising children for the second time. More than 940,000 grandchildren are being raised by grandparents, according to a recent study led by the children's defense fund. As grandparents are faced with economic, social and psychological hardships nonexistent in their 1960s parenthood, a growing number of them are actively participating online, to support one another in tackling obstacles associated with providing children all that is necessary for a full and prosperous life. Again.

Measuring the costs

The overall poverty rate for children living in homes of custodial grandparents is 27 percent, compared to the 14 percent living with two parents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Parenting a second time can puncture a retiree's finances, Karen Best Wright said. When her three grandchildren came into her home nearly nine years ago, Wright needed financial assistance. She was frustrated by the lack of resources available online to grandparents. "I couldn't find anything out there," she said. "Everything was out of date and nobody would answer my questions."

Wright started RaisingYourGrandchildren.com, to help other grandparents find information she gained over time. She found a huge demand for tools and support. "If they aren't finding people on the internet, most people think they are totally alone," Wright said. "There are a lot more grandparents that are doing blogging and they're talking about raising their grandchildren." Wright tells her readers stories of other grandparents who have found innovative ways to make ends meet.

Grandparents should accept assistance if it's available, Wright said. Contacting your church or community organizations can be a good source for food, clothing, utilities, or Christmas and birthday gifts. Tax breaks, food stamps and grants can be available, depending upon the custody arrangements, income and state you live in. "Don't be proud," Wright said.

If the grandchildren are under 5, WIC (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) may be available through the Health Department. It pays for healthy foods for children, Wright said. She also suggests looking into what the state offers as part of the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) grant at the Administration for Children & Families. Wright also found her local social services "most helpful." They guided her through the child-only TANF grant process, Medicaid and available child care.

Wright plans to launch a website, Grandbloggers.com, to bring together grandparents who are blogging, where further financial resources will be available.

This month, Grandparents.com, a premier social media website for Americans older than 50 raising grandchildren, announced they will be "expanding to insurance and other ventures focusing on serving America's 120 million grandparents, boomers and seniors." The company is just one of many organizations working to provide tools and financial opportunities to the rising number of grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Custody terms

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