Last updated: August 26. 2013 4:56PM - 1903 Views
Johnnerlyn Johnson

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Last Wednesday was National Senior Citizens’ Day, so how did you honor the elders in your life or yourself as an elder on this day?

Several churches sponsored senior appreciation luncheons, visited nursing homes, and/or distributed care packages. However, a vast majority did not even know the day existed.

Regardless of the means in which Senior Citizens’ Day was commemorated, many of today’s seniors are not the ones being honored. Instead, they are honoring others far more youthful. Today’s seniors are displaying this valor by raising their grandchildren, and in some cases their great-grandchildren.

Per the following site, www.raisingyourgrandchildren.com, more than six million children - approximately 1 in 12 - are living in households headed by grandparents (4.5 million children) or other relatives (1.5 million children).

For specific information on statistics and a wide array of resources relative to this state, access: www.grandfactsheets.org. On the right-hand side, select North Carolina.

Although joys abound, pitfalls, as with most situations, may be encountered when seniors raise children. The health of the senior may be vulnerable. Combined with the oxymoron of an often positive burden of raising grandchildren, in some cases, the seniors’ health may further decline.

Additional obstacles may include various health issues, be they physical and/or mental, faced by the child(ren). Furthermore, there are added responsibilities seniors encounter when caring for young children, and one of those is schooling and issues relative to schooling.

As a former principal, I found it indispensable to incorporate the assistance of the Student Support Management Team members during most chronic discipline issues and/or to thwart potential ones. This team typically includes, but is not limited to, the school’s social worker, psychologist, and counselor. In cases where the subject was being raised by a grandparent with limited resources, I relied heavily upon this SSMT to intervene with that child through home visits, mini-counseling sessions, and/or carefully crafted behavior plans.

Even if the child was mischievous, I had compassion for the grandparents as caretakers of these children. It pained me to have to call home to inform a grandparent of a suspension and/ or something their grandchild did with ill-intent. However, knowing that appropriate measures were taken before the call gave me a portion of peace prior to contacting that senior charged with caring for that child.

Countless seniors raise children by choice, but some are faced with having to do so to avoid the children’s removal and placement in the custody of a non-relative. On the other hand, millions of children are raised by seniors to fulfill the parenting role for reasons related to a deployment or personal issues plaguing that biological parent. These reasons include, but are not limited to, the death of a parent, alcohol and/or drug abuse, and/or a job requiring a non-compatible move for both parent(s) and child.

Although they vary from state to state, standard nationally available benefits for these Grandparents as Parents include: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income, Social Security, Dependents Benefit, Medicaid, and Guardianship. Again, for resources specific to North Carolina, visit: www.grandfactsheets.org

As September 8, 2013, approaches, this may be your next nationally reserved chance to honor seniors, as it is Grandparents’ Day.

Hats off to America’s seniors!

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