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Archive for Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Dual role

May 29, 2002

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Raising grandchildren can be a rewarding experience, but it's no small commitment for grandparents to take on.

One of the enduring jokes about the advantages of being a grandparent is that Grandma and Grandpa can spoil a child all they want then send them home to Mom and Dad.

But almost everyone knows a family where grandparents don't send their grandchildren home. Statistics from the 2000 U.S. Census show that throughout Kansas, thousands of grandparents are making a home and taking primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren.

The 2000 census showed that 29,026 Kansas children under 18 were living in households headed by a grandparent. That's an increase of 43.4 percent since the 1990 census. There currently are 17,873 Kansas grandparents who say they are the primary providers for their grandchildren; 319 of those live in Douglas County, according to census data.

There are a variety of reasons cited for this trend. In an Associated Press story published in Sunday's Journal-World, Kansas Secretary on Aging Connie Hubbell said those reasons include drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, divorce and child abuse and neglect. It seems that the number of unmarried, and often very young, women who decide to keep their babies rather than allow them to be adopted also might be a contributing factor. Although they may love their children, the financial and emotional responsibility of caring for those children can be more than a young person can handle.

If, for any reason, a child is not receiving adequate care from his or her parents, who is the natural person to step in? Grandparents, of course. Taking primary responsibility for raising grandchildren isn't a job most grandparents expect, but it is one they usually will take on willingly if they believe it is the best chance the children have to grow up in a healthy, loving home.

Ask anyone about their grandchildren and you're likely to see some photos and hear some stories that border on boasting. Everyone thinks his or her grandchild is remarkable in some way or even every way. But altering one's life to make time to raise and nurture a second family is no small commitment.

It's unfortunate when parents fail, for any reason, to fulfill their obligation to their children. Those who relinquish, or are legally forced to relinquish, their parenting duties to their own parents probably don't fully appreciate the gift of time and dedication those grandparents are willing to give.

Hopefully, sometime in the future, the grandchildren involved will realize the importance of that gift. The child's relationship to a grandparent often creates a special bond. Grandparents who are willing and able to nurture a child both as a parent and a grandparent surely deserve a special heavenly reward.

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