University of Illinois Extension

Becoming a Parent Again

Molly Hofer, Family Life Educator

Grandparents play many roles in the lives of their grandchildren including babysitter, playmate, mentor and friend. But today, more than ever before, grandparents are called upon to actually raise their grandchildren.

If you are raising your grandkids, you're not alone. Nationwide, nearly four million children under the age of 18 are cared for by a grandparent or other relative.

In Illinois, about 70,000 children are raised in homes where a grandparent is the sole caregiver. Grandparents range in age from 35 to 80-plus years. They are from all walks of life and from all cultural and economic groups.

Why are so many grandparents becoming parents again? Sometimes it's an alcohol or drug abuse problem. In other cases it might be teenage pregnancy, poverty, divorce or family violence. Drug and alcohol abuse is the most common factor, accounting for more than 80 percent of grandparent families.

Some grandparents gradually become parents as they see their adult children slowly losing control of their lives. Other grandparents suddenly find themselves raising a second family with very little warning.

If you're like most grandparents raising grandkids, you probably need some help finding services and resources. Some help is available from state programs and community resources. Also look for a support group in your community. These groups offer a place to share similar experiences and learn new ideas.

Call the Illinois Department on Aging Senior Helpline at 1-800-252-8966 for support groups and resources in Illinois.