It has been said that grandparents are part parent, part teacher, part best friend. For many grandparents, the parent’s role has become a primary one as they make the life-changing decision to raise grandchildren whose parents cannot raise them.
In New Mexico, 12.7% of children under the age of 18 live in households where the heads of household are relatives other than the parents. 10.1% of these children live with their grandparents. Many reasons prevent parents from taking care of their children. This includes one or more of the following factors affecting parents: substance abuse, adult and/or child abuse and neglect, unemployment, incarceration, HIV/AIDS, mental or physical illness, teenage pregnancy, child disability, divorce, military deployment, abandonment, and death.
“There are wonderful organizations in New Mexico that work hard to help grandparents raise grandchildren – a critical need here. We also need people working to address root causes so children can live and thrive in healthy families,” said Dolores E. Roybal, executive director of the Con Alma Health Foundation.
“New Mexico’s history of extended families supporting each other is a cherished tradition here, but single-raising grandchildren typically live in poverty while still working, navigating school and the health care system.”
Raising grandchildren affects every aspect of a grandparent’s life. As a result, grandparents raising grandchildren face many challenges:
legal. Grandparents often face legal difficulties related to obtaining custody or guardianship, enrolling their grandchildren in school, and accessing medical care for their grandchildren.
Financially. Due to limited financial resources, grandparents raising grandchildren often face difficulties in supporting themselves and providing their grandchildren with adequate housing, food and clothing.
Education. Parenting can be challenging, especially when grandchildren have emotional, behavioral, or physical difficulties.
Physical and mental health. Grandparents may have limited energy and physical health issues that make raising their grandchildren more difficult. Some grandparents also neglect their health due to lack of funds or the demands of caring for their grandchildren.
Social. Grandparents raising grandchildren often have less time to themselves and less time to spend with their partners and friends. This loss of social connections can be stressful and contribute to depression and feelings of anger, loss, and sadness.
family relationships. Family relationships can be a source of stress. Grandparents can be ambivalent about their grandchildren’s parents—they may feel compelled to protect their grandchildren from their parents’ problems while at the same time worrying about their parents’ well-being. Some grandparents may find it difficult to form a relationship with their grandchildren due to the generation gap.
Access to Services. Grandparents often need a variety of support services to meet the demands of raising their grandchildren. However, grandparents may not be aware of the services available for their family. You may have difficulty accessing available services due to a number of other obstacles.
Grandparents may need additional support interacting with multiple systems that families rely on to ensure the well-being of the child. Local programs that provide parenting support, resources, and help are often available for extended families as well, and can be found at local schools, aging agencies, community centers, religious organizations, or children’s charities. Many of Otero County’s services can be found at Ten Vital Services, New Mexico.
100% Otero is a local organization striving to heal childhood trauma by supporting all types of families and residents, ensuring they have access to ten essential services to survive and thrive. Survival services include medical/dental care, behavioral health care, food, shelter and transportation. Thriving services include parent support, early childhood learning, community schools, youth mentors, and job training. 100% Otero consists of ten teams, each focused on one of these areas.
In September we celebrate Grandparents Day. This year let’s especially celebrate the grandparents who become parents for the second time.
100% Otero is sponsored in part by the Anna Age Eight Institute, the Con Alma Health Foundation and regional partners.