Because I am a grandmother, I pay attention to the fact that September is the month when we celebrate grandparents. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day each year as National Grandparents Day. In 2021, the Presidential proclamation regarding Grandparents Day stated:
On National Grandparents Day, we celebrate the important role grandparents play in providing love, wisdom, and strength to their families, and fostering greater understanding across generations. Grandmas and grandpas, abuelas y abuelos, nanas and pop-pops — through their wisdom, their perseverance, and their unconditional love — strengthen our family bonds. They share with us who we are, where we come from, and the experiences that have shaped their lives, and, in many cases, shaped our Nation.
In Louisiana, there are 116,549 children living with their grandparents. For 67,714 of these children, the grandparent is the head of household and responsible for the child. Grandparents raise their grandchildren for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons reflect difficulties experienced by the grandchild’s parents, which prevent the parents from caring for their children. Specifically, grandparents often raise their grandchildren due to a combination of parental substance abuse, abuse and neglect, unemployment, incarceration, HIV/AIDS, mental or physical illness, teenage pregnancy, child disability, divorce, military deployment, abandonment, and death.
Attending a meeting of the Louisiana Council on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, I was inspired by the stories of grandparents and the challenges they face in meeting the needs of their grandchildren. These self-sacrificing folks stepped in to prevent their grandchildren from being placed in foster care. Now, these grandparents are largely on their own to meet the needs of the children and many are struggling. As one grandma said “My husband and I worked our whole life and planned and saved for retirement. We didn’t plan on having five extra mouths to feed, so now we are both working again. But what are you going to do?” Maybe the question should be: What can we do to support these grand families?
Happy Grandparents’ day!
Kathleen Stewart Richey
Louisiana CASA Executive Director