The University of Missouri Extension will be sponsoring a program in November on a current societal issue that often does not get the attention it deserves. According to AARP, approximately 5.8% of children currently live in their grandparent's home and more than 2.5 million grandparents are taking responsibility for these children, often with little involvement from the parents of the child. In Missouri, 7.1% or 101,304 children live in a home where the grandparent is the householder and the grandparents are responsible without help from the parent for 49,641 of these children. These grandparents often lack information about support services, resources, laws and programs available to help them as they fulfill their caregiving duties. The difficulties of raising children in our society have only increased from when these grandparents were raising their own children. The world is a very different place. In previous articles, I have discussed the need for family budgets and the importance of getting our children involved and helping them to understand the value of money. Financially, it can be overwhelming and although I normally write about personal finances, there are greater concerns when it comes to protecting the welfare of our children.
Often, simply making the adjustment is the most difficult challenge these grandparents face. The children may be angry or ashamed of their situation. They may even feel responsible. Grandparents must establish open communication with their grandchildren in order to establish trust and assure the child that they are loved and welcome in their home. Rules must be established and positive discipline must be developed over time to encourage proper behavior. Due to generational differences, grandparents must educate themselves as they help our children become educated. Computers, cellular telephones, and social media are the new pen and paper. Even very young children will know something about their circumstances, it is up to the grandparent to start the conversation to alleviate the fear many of these children must feel. If you do not own a computer, utilize the local library to educate yourself about your legal rights with regard to guardianship and custody issues that will enable you to qualify for certain benefits and allow you to make decisions about your grandchild's life. Grandparents should always seek the advice of an attorney if there are issues you don't understand. Become active in the school your grandchild attends and find activities that you can both benefit from such as reading to the child or an outdoor activity such as exploring nature together. From a financial standpoint, there are social services that can help with the additional expenses that come with raising a grandchild. Information on The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) which provides cash assistance to eligible children and their relative caregivers and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program which helps low income individuals buy food they need for good health can be gathered from the Department of Social Services -- Family Support Division at 573-751-3221. Local food banks are organizations that provide free food and other items for families in need. Your local office of the University of Missouri Extension is a fantastic place to learn of the many programs and support groups available to grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren.
One of these programs will be on November 20th at the St. James Outreach Center located at 418 East Broadway in Hayti, Missouri from 8:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The title of the program is Grandfamily/Kinship Care Day and will include conference topics on Building Family Cohesion, Street Drugs Awareness, Legal Issues for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, Keeping Kids on The Right Track and Taking Care of You. The speakers are well respected in their fields, lunch will be provided, and it will be a great opportunity to meet others who are facing the similar difficulties. For more information or to register, call 573-333-0258. The ability to take care of those you love is directly related to taking care of yourself.
The University of Missouri Extension office is open Monday -- Friday, located in Kennett, Missouri at 233 North Main Street. Contact 573-888-4722 with questions or comments. MU is an equal opportunity/ADA institution.