Reports are that about 10% of the children in this country are being raised by their grandparents. There are a lot of reasons for this, including parents in prison, or death, or removed from the home by the State for drugs, irresponsibility, or various types of abuse.
It’s ironic! Many of the current generation of grandparents are again called on to make another supreme effort toward raising children. This time it is their own grandchildren who in most cases have been let down by their own parents (The Grandparent’s children).
How did this happen? What caused so many parents to tip over to the extent they are unable to raise their own children? We can only speculate, but perhaps a general overview of the evolution through recent generations will help give some insights.
What have been called the “Greatest Generation” were the parents of the current generation of grandparents. The “Greatest Generation” were those who survived the Great Depression, won World War II, established a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity during the 1950s and established or significantly expanded the major institutions to what we know today. Those institutions included significant increase in funding and State direction in public education, Medicare, Medicaid, expanded Social Security, expanded Welfare and a standing army and the United Nations. The goal was to never again for them or their children, to live through the horrors of a major war, to take care of all our citizens, and especially, prepare their children through universal education and a social safety net.
The current generation of Grandparents are the children of the “Greatest Generation” and were termed “Baby Boomers.” Out of this generation came the “Campus Revolt” of the 1960s and a focus on perceived injustices that had not been addressed by their parents such as racism, sexism and the undeclared “war” in Viet Nam. One common refrain I heard at the time from those that considered themselves rebels, was that ours was an unjust society and the authority of special privileges needed to be torn down in order to build a better and more just society. Many of the “Baby Boomers” raised their children to reflect their vision of this more “just” society. One result is today we have a confusing morass of conflicting theories about raising children and what is good for them.
These children raised by the “Baby Boomers” are the current generation of parents with a high percentage (10%) tipping over and unable to raise their own children, and the rest are dealing with a society with rampant drug abuse and many other disorders like cutting and eating disorders that are often termed epidemics among our young people. The number of private parent choice schools and programs for struggling teens are expanding, juvenile justice facilities and hospitals and Residential Treatment Centers are filling up with the number and size of facilities growing, and all states report a shortage of foster homes. Reports are that only a fraction of the young people with mental/emotional disorders is properly served by public and private resources.
Grandparents, the ”Baby Boom” generation, are stepping forward to meet the need, at least for their own grandchildren. Without these heroes sacrificing their own dreams of retirement and a life of ease, the problems would be much worse. Most of these Grandparents are bearing the costs on their own with tight budgets and minimal governmental benefits.
This tells us that the sense of responsibility for family is not only alive and well, but that the family and sense of responsibility to their family is a solid positive in our society, helping millions of young people dealt a raw deal in early life, but thanks to their Grandparents, have a chance to grow up with a better opportunity for a more positive future.
Those Grandparents stepping forward to care for their Grandchildren should be celebrated! One person who is not only celebrating these Grandparents, but has written a book of advice for them is Elaine Williams. She has written a book titled The Sacred Work of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, and I had an opportunity to interview her about her experience collecting the information for the book on LATalkRadio. To listen to the interview go here.
It is heartening to see that when a need is obviously presented, millions of our citizens will step forward to do what they can despite the burdens and obstacles. Despite the problems of our society, there are good things happening.
For the archive of all articles and essays published by Woodbury Reports since November 1989, go to strugglingteens.com.