Grandparents raising grandchildren, or grandfamilies, are a growing group across the country, with an estimated 2.5 million children being raised by someone other than their parents.
The state of Utah has its share of grandfamilies, with an estimated 21,000 children living with grandparents and 17,000 living with other family members or in kinship care, said Bacall Hincks, program administrator for the Grandfamilies Program at Children’s Service Society of Utah.
In Cache Valley, there are 1,900 children being raised in a grandparent-headed household – the parents could be living there some of the time – and 700 children being raised with a grandparent as primary caregiver. Grandfamilies in Cache County has recently opened an office at 95 West 100 S. in Logan as a resource for those raising grandchildren or a relative’s children.
Hincks said Grandfamilies in Utah is part of Children Service Society, an organization founded in Salt Lake City in 1894 to handle adoption and foster care.
In 2000, the Children Service Society recognized a problem with more parents being absent from the home. Two years later, the organization formed the Grandfamilies in Utah organization.
The number one reason for parents not being in the home is drug use by the child’s parents. Other issues may be poverty, death of the parent, incarceration or mental illness.
Hincks said opioid deaths are the number one reason for parents not being in the home in Utah. Next is meth, then other substance abuse. “Unfortunately, Utah is ranked in the top 20. A Utah website opidemic.org said seventh but an updated national website states we are seventeenth in the country for opioid deaths.”
The organization tries to help caregivers find access to financial resources to meet the needs of children they are caring for.
“We look to the community to see what resources apply to them and we help them access necessary support,” she said. “Caring for these kiddos is tough, they are coming from a place where there is severe trauma.”
Bringing children from troubled families into a relative’s home is not easy and there are a lot of issues when trying to determine their needs. Children coming from these rough conditions often are abused or neglected in their homes.
“The children are coming from a place where they likely experienced drug abuse; there are a lot of behavior and health issues,” Hincks said.
“Grandfamilies in Utah has offices in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and now in Cache Valley, but we will serve anyone, anywhere in the state, even though we may not have an office where there is a need,” Hincks said.
Hincks said she hopes to get this kind of program across the state. The office staff are primarily Bachelors-degree level social workers that have a certain level of experience.
“We work with the community so we get to know what is available, then we focus on understanding the family’s needs,” she said. “We also connect people with people in the community that can help them. We also provide support groups and ongoing events to connect kinship families to support.”
Earlier this year there was a bipartisan vote by congress for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act. President Trump signed it in July 2018.
“There was a second Family First Prevention Services Act signed in February that addressed child welfare and provides for potential funding for Grandfamilies programs like ours,” Hincks said.
Grandfamilies in Cache Valley has been open for a couple of months and is planning an open house in February.
Locally, there are about 50 people using the Logan facility, but they expect that number to increase as the word gets out.
“I am excited to be part of the wonderful Cache area community,” Hincks said.