Meredith Minkler

Photo by Jane Scherr.

Grandparents become parents all over again

More than one in 10 grandparents is providing primary care for their grandchildren for at least six months, and typically far longer, according to a UC Berkeley and University of Toronto study.

The number is higher than expected, found Meredith Minkler, professor of public health and principal investigator on the study.

"We knew grandparent caregiving was common in large inner-city areas, where estimates suggest that 30 to 50 percent of grandparents are providing primary care," said Minkler. "But to find that the national rate is this high is quite dramatic." Moreover, one in five of these grandparents had been primary caregivers for 10 years or more, according to the study.

The research team is particularly concerned about the 23 percent of caregivers living below the poverty line. Minkler urges that grandparent caregiving be supported, not by welfare, but by the more generous payments given to foster parents. Some states, such as New York and Illinois, have begun to make that change.

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