At 15 years old I moved in with my grandparents, but prior to that change in my life. FIVE and I mean five of my closest friends were also being raised by their grandparents. Some situations more drastic than others. I never thought much about it until I got older. I mean my grandparents were just a huge part of my life, they knew everything and it wasn't weird to me.
But now I'm realizing a problem. This generation is being raised by their grandparents.
As of 2018, data shows that about 2 percent of U.S. children are being raised by a grandparent with no parent in the household, referred to by Rachel Dunifon, professor of Policy Analysis and management at Cornell, as "grandfamilies." Most often, parents voluntarily give up custody to the grandparent for a variety of reasons including substance use, abuse and neglect, incarceration, mental health problems, death and becoming a parent at a young age.
This is not an easy road for grandparents. Older adults who take custody of their grandchildren are more likely to be poor.
About two-thirds of these families live in households with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Grandparents in these families are less likely to be employed, less likely to receive help with child care and more like to suffer from physical disabilities and chronic health problems. These grandparents experience higher levels of stress compared with other grandparents and are more likely to face mental health and financial problems.
Children raised by grandparents are more likely to experience challenges as well. Because they are often living in an unofficial arrangement, they are less likely to qualify for social services. And they are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral problems.
My grandparents never formally adopted me or took guardianship over me, so when it came to college financial aid I was considered "special circumstance". It actually made things worse for my dependency status. This eventually screwed me over in other areas of life including my car ownership. The Tag Agency said my grandpa couldn't switch the car title into my name, because they couldn't "skip" a generation. Uhmm, what? Why?
It has always been a bunch of little things like this. By the time I landed at my grandparents my grandpa had already been retired. While my grandma was also a human being with human challenges, the biggest one being this complicated and emotional young girl who was dropped into her lap at a time when most people are getting ready to retire.
I don't claim to be representative of the entire demographic—parents' parents raising children is a social situation that more typically arises from the consequences of institutionalized racism. I'm still just a middle-class white girl. And an incredibly lucky one, at that. Instead of foster care or an orphanage, I was raised by two people who loved me so much they put my interests ahead of their own.
There's an old saying that you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. In my case, my family chose me.