Topeka Some people who are rearing their grandchildren will not be eligible for a new state program designed to help them because the Legislature said they must be at least 50 years old to qualify.
Cathy Moyle of Topeka, who is 47, said the age limit for the Grandparents as Caregivers assistance program had hampered her ability to care for three granddaughters.
Under the program, which begins Jan. 1, grandparent caregivers would receive $200 per grandchild each month for up to three children. But one of the qualifications is that the grandparents have to be 50 years old.
Moyle has had sporadic custody of Emetria, 13, Stephanie, 11, and Kelanna, 8, since they were born. She receives $359 a month through a federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant. She also receives $87 in food stamps, medical insurance for the girls and child care reimbursement.
But she was laid off in January from a job that paid twice as much as her current job, which also requires her to commute to south Topeka. The car recently broke down, so she is leasing one for now.
"I've never asked for anything I didn't really need," Moyle said. "You try to make do with what you have, but there are times when you just try as hard as you can, and something happens and you really need the help."
When she heard about the program, Moyle met all the stipulations except the age requirement. She has to have legal custody of the girls and they must live in her house. Their mother, Crystal Perry, can't live in the same house as long as they are receiving assistance. Moyle's income also is below 130 percent of the poverty line for a family of its size.
First census of grandparents
Census 2000 was the first to ask grandparents if, for whatever reason, they are responsible for most of the basic needs of a grandchild or grandchildren under the age of 18 living with them on a temporary or permanent basis. Of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren, nearly 40 percent reported being responsible for their grandchildren for more than five years. In Kansas, 17,873 grandparents are listed in the 2000 U.S. Census as being primary caregivers. About 75 percent of those grandparents are younger than 60 and nearly 4,600 grandparent caregivers live below the poverty level.
She said she began filling out the paperwork but hit a roadblock when she discovered she was too young.
"It feels like I'm getting punished for having a child when I was 19 and for Crystal having babies when she was young," she said. "Even worse, I feel like the girls are getting punished."
The Grandparents as Caregivers program was designed to serve about 1,200 families, said Mike Deines, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which administers the funds.
He said the age limit was set in part after a study done at the University of Illinois showed that 50 was the median age of grandparents nationwide. Deines said some legislators wanted to make the age limit 60.
"With the amount of money available to us for the program, there was a limit to the amount of people who could get benefits," Deines said. "Honestly, there were a lot of people working to get this program going. It's really going to help a lot of people."
Moyle won't be eligible to benefit from the Grandparents as Caregivers program until she turns 50 in 2008.
"I can't say the state has shunned me completely," Moyle said. "They finally started paying for child care, and I do get a little bit of money assistance, but even if it were just $250 extra a month, we could make ends meet."
The girls' mother is serving a 2 1/2-year sentence in the Topeka Women's Correctional Facility for writing fraudulent checks. She began writing the checks after her husband died from a sudden brain aneurysm in 2003, Moyle said.
"She was just too proud. I think she really wanted to take care of those kids and prove she was still their mother," Moyle said. "But they knew that; they've always known that."
Representatives from SRS said they couldn't bend any rules to enroll Moyle in the program but said they would work to provide extra temporary relief.