University of Illinois Extension

Being an Advocate for Your Grandchild

Angela Wiley, Family Life Specialist

In a recent survey, education was the number one concern for nearly 90 percent of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.1 And, studies show that children do better in school when their caregivers support, or advocate for them, and regularly talk with school staff.

But, the policies and practices at some schools are often unintentional barriers for grandparent-headed families, because they are specifically aimed at traditional nuclear families. For example, most schools do not permit child enrollment or release official records without proof of legal custody or formal guardianship. Sometimes grandparents also have a hard time getting information about and access to educational services. And, grandparents often feel that they don't get enough information about their grandchildren's academic progress, challenges, and needs.

What can you do? Start by learning about the school's policies. Visit with the principal and ask for help with tasks like enrolling, giving consent for special activities, and accessing the services that are available to your grandchildren. Be prepared to contact the school board if district-wide policies prevent your involvement.

Also, establish a direct relationship with your grandchild's teacher that includes, but clearly goes beyond, the official parent-teacher conferences. The teacher can keep you in the communication loop. Once you make the first move and show your commitment to your grandchild's education, the teacher is likely to be the best ally of both you and your grandchild.

1 Laura Landry-Meyer, 1999. Research into Action: Recommended Intervention Strategies for Grandparent Caregivers, Family Relations, 48, 381-389.