COLUMBIA, Mo. – According to recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics, more than 2.2 million children are being raised by their grandparents, other relatives or loved ones. Added financial strains caused by this living arrangement and subsequent legal issues create challenges and often push these “grandfamilies” into poverty. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are analyzing how grandfamilies cope with pressures created by this increasingly common family arrangement and are seeking additional research volunteers from around the country from this understudied group.
“Our research to date has found that grandfamilies who employ more consistent, meaningful and purposeful rituals such as vacationing, celebrating holidays, and engaging in faith-based or cultural experiences may be more likely to feel closer as a unit,” said Karen Traylor-Adolph, a doctoral candidate with the counseling psychology department in the MU College of Education. Also, those families report fewer problems for their children at school, as well as fewer hyperactivity problems at home. Similarly, grandfamilies who have established routines such as scheduled time for homework, meal times and behavioral consequences that are specific may feel closer as a unit. These trends are significant because they highlight the strengths of these “nontraditional” families as well as provide some insights in to how to best help them prosper.”
Recent studies indicate that grandparents or close family members may or may not have legal custody of the children in their care, making it difficult to apply for or enroll in school and other support programs. Research also suggests that some caregivers receive child support from a parent, but most do not. Finally, grandparents who are raising younger children are concerned about the physical challenges of parenting and the doubts about their own health, Traylor-Adolph said.
“In Missouri, nearly 121,000 children live with a grandparent or other relative,” said Traylor-Adolph, who also is the coordinator for the Missouri GRANDFamily Coalition and a family support specialist with ParentLink, an MU program that provides resources and services for Missouri families. “Of those children, approximately 17,000 live with their grandparents without a biological parent present. This caregiving arrangement poses a number of challenges when you consider that grandparents are increasingly responsible for incurred debt caused by their new family dynamic and do not have financial or community assistance from state or local governments.”
Traylor-Adolph and her advisor, Keith Herman, professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology at MU, are seeking grandfamily participants from around the country with children aged 3-17. After completing a brief survey, participants will receive a “Kinship Care Resource Guide,” and will be entered in drawings for gift cards. Survey signup information can be found here: missouri.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eVDLRcZeaZLhJul.
ParentLink provides information, resources and support for professionals serving families and Missouri families of all types, including parents with newborn babies, grandparents raising children, student parents, incarcerated parents and parents of children with special needs. Family support specialists are available by phone at 800-552-8522 or email your questions at the following link: education.missouri.edu/orgs/parentlink/warmline_question.php.