In North Carolina, 98,676 grandparents are primary caregivers for their grandchildren (under age 18) in their homes.
• NCBAM: North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry provides help and resources for aging adults 65+ years. The call center connects aging adults with servant volunteers in 4,300 North Carolina churches and communities. For more information, see: ncbam.org/about-us.html#about_ncbam or call (877) 506-2226 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.)
• For information on programs that can provide support, resources, and assistance to “grandfamilies,” see: grandfamilies.org/Portals/0/State%20Fact%20Sheets/Grandfamilies-Fact-Sheet-North-Carolina.pdf.
• To learn more about the Caraway “Grand Camp” event for all grandparents and grandchildren, see: caraway.org/grandcamp, or call (336) 629-2374. The next Grand Camp is scheduled for Sun., June 24, 2018.
“There is a rising tide of grandparents assuming the role of parents in North Carolina,” states Cheryl Markland, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s senior consultant of childhood evangelism and discipleship.
“Their unique needs for dealing with children being raised in an Internet age is rarely addressed in our churches. In order to fulfill the command to make disciples, churches need to come alongside grandparents with offers of help and hope.”
“The drug abuse of a child’s parents is the number one reason why grandparents are raising grandchildren in North Carolina,” said Sandy Gregory, director of the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM).
The opioid epidemic is raging in the state and is forcing many ill-equipped grandparents to become their grandchildren’s primary caregivers.
This unexpected arrangement can cause tremendous challenges for older adults. In order to help meet the basic needs of North Carolina’s grandparents (focusing on adults 65 and older), Gregory teaches a class on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, as part of the NCBAM ministry.
“Very few North Carolina churches have programs that focus on these grandparents. It is a great opportunity for the church to step forward, help people and share the love of Christ,” Gregory says.
A growing problem
The problem is increasing, not only in North Carolina, but across the entire United States. Grandparents may or may not qualify for federal or state assistance.
Recognizing the crisis, in May, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman, Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D.Pa.) introduced the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act to create a federal task force charged with supporting grandparents raising grandchildren nationwide, providing critical direction to better coordinate federal programs that would help provide support.
Parenting grandchildren is a tough job that can cause financial, physical, emotional, medical, relational and legal difficulties for older adults in their “empty nest” years.
How the church can help
Church leadership and members of the congregation can be a huge support, help and encouragement to this special, and often overlooked, church group.
- Ask professionals in your congregation to help grandparents work through the maze of medical and legal paperwork they may face as they become primary caregivers for grandchildren.
- Help with finances if child-related needs overwhelm grandparents struggling to survive on a fixed income.
- Set up child care arrangements in the church and/or after-school (if only for two or three hours) to give grandparents a much-needed break.
- Search out church, community and federal programs that can offer help and support.
- Help in practical ways: babysitting, delivering meals, transporting to doctor/counseling appointments, selecting and buying school supplies, etc.
- Stay in close touch with grandparent caregivers, pray for and with them, get them involved in church programs that will help, support and encourage them and their grandchildren.
- Provide seminars, guest speakers and resources that will address some of the many problems they face. Provide child care in the church during these events.
- Start a grandparent support group that meets on a regular schedule and brings together grandparents rearing grandchildren.
- Hold events or recommend church/community programs that bring grandparents and grandchildren together in fun and meaningful activities.
By the numbers
In North Carolina, of the 98,676 grandparents who are rearing grandchildren:
• 62,875 (63.7%) are under age 60.
• 57,331 (58.1%) are in the workforce.
• 24,570 (24.9%) live in poverty.
• 27,298 (27.7%) have a disability.
• 30,491 (30.9%) are unmarried.
In the United States, almost three million grandparents are raising their grandchildren. The top reasons grandparents are becoming primary caretakers for their grandchildren are drug addiction, domestic violence and family breakdown. Other reasons include neglect, mental illness, child abuse, abandonment, imprisonment and death of a parent.
Jeff Kohns, associate director for operations at Caraway Conference Center and Camp in Sophia, N.C., directs an annual event called Grand Camp for all grandparents and grandchildren.
“The focus of Caraway’s annual summer Grand Camp event is to give opportunities for grandparents to build and strengthen relationships with their grandchildren and to create a legacy,” he said.
“It also seeks to build good relationships so that grandparents can have more of a positive influence on their grandchildren.”
The camp event offers fully-planned and staffed programs.
Some grandparents who attend are raising their grandchildren, but the majority are grandparents who want to spend quality time together.
If your church would like resources or assistance to begin a ministry to grandparents who have become parents, contact Cheryl Markland at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5645, or [email protected]. Sandy Gregory can be reached at (800) 476-3669 or [email protected].
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Denise George, author of 31 books, is co-author of the new Penguin Random House book: The Lost Eleven: The Forgotten Story of Black American Soldiers Brutally Massacred in World War II. She is married to Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University.)