As a grandparent, it is not always expected that you’ll be raising children anymore, but some seniors don’t have a choice if it’s their grandchild in need of care and support.
With that in mind, the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center will open its doors for the workshop “Caring for a Relative’s Child: Workshop for Kinship Caregivers in Los Angeles County” on Feb. 21.
“We want to help figure out the best way for benefits and boundaries as grandparents,” said Linda Davies, program specialist with the senior center. “Grandparents became a third party, with parents first and the state second. You want to make sure they know their legal rights to do the best for that child.”
Children living with relatives or non-relative extended family members are living in what’s referred to as kinship care, according to the California Department of Social Services.
The workshop will be presented by kinship care attorney Liz Gonzalez, of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a law firm that regularly sends representatives to speak at the senior center.
“We’re hoping we get many people to come and hear it,” Davies said. “I’ve heard from a lot of grandparents struggling with somebody else in the family who is addicted to drugs but still wants to be part of a child’s life.”
Between 2016-2018, there were approximately 2.7 million children in the United States living with a relative or non-relative who wasn’t a biological parent, about 4 percent, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center. This applies to more than 280,000 children in California, according to the center’s statistics.
Quality of life
Grandparents who attend the workshop will learn more about legal and financial necessities when raising grandchildren, along with ways in which grandparents can improve their quality of life while raising a grandchild. The task of raising a child can also feed through a fixed income, resulting in some relatives and non-relatives receiving a monthly foster care maintenance payment, which, depending on the age and eligibility of their child, could range from $688 to $859 per month, according to the California Department of Social Services.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, categorizes arrangements for kinship care based on the involvement of the juvenile court or a child welfare agency. However, Davies said grandparents who want to attend the program do not need legal guardianship of their grandchildren to participate.
Workshops also will give caregivers a support group to learn from each other.
“Guidance,” said John Taylor about what he’s looking forward to with the workshop. “All the services for our granddaughter.”
Taylor married his wife, Carmen, two years ago. She already was taking care of her granddaughter, Aaliyah Madrid, who was an infant. Her mother, who lives in Alabama, has struggled to remain financially stable.
Raising Aaliyah has been a challenge, Taylor said. Though not yet diagnosed with a particular disability, she occasionally has seizures.
“It’s hard having an 8-year-old with you for two years, and you’re going back to being a parent,” Carmen said, referring to the time her and Taylor have been married. “You’re going back to having to set up rules and bedtimes and chores.”
Ruby and Ray Mitchell have been raising their grandson on-and-off since he was 16. After living with his father did not initially work out, he lived with them for some time before going back.
Their grandson, who’s now 18, reached out to the Mitchells after he graduated from high school, wishing to stay with them. By March 2018, he was back living with them. As grandparents, living with an 18-year-old has not always been easy, Ruby Mitchell said.
“We just love him,” she said, “and he has nowhere else to go.”
The Mitchells, who volunteer at the senior center to set up the dining room for lunch and on bingo days, heard about the workshop.
“We thought about checking it out,” Mitchell said.
Over the coming weeks and months, Davies said she will work with education counselors to talk with grandparents about homework and student portals, where they can gain access to their grandchild’s grades and other assignments. Workshops will be held each Thursday in a confidential space among grandparents who wish to share stories and give advice to each other in a safe space, Davies said.
“They can talk about, ‘Why did I take this role on? What are the pluses and negatives,’” she said. “They can openly say it — it’s hard. Some of them are on strict incomes, they may not be retired totally, but their lives are now upside down because they’re now taking care of a grandchild.”
“There’s many,” Davies added. “They’re not alone.”
To register to attend the free workshop, call Davies at (661) 259-9444 ext. 130. For more information on kinship care provided by the Los Angeles County department of Children and Family Services, go to dcfs.co.la.ca.us