Raising grandchildren can be both rewarding and challenging for grandparents. With the opioid epidemic and other issues causing more children to end up in foster care, many grandparents are stepping up to care for their grandchildren.
However, the foster care system has specific requirements for foster parents that grandparents may not always meet.
This article examines whether grandparents can serve as foster parents to their own grandchildren and how they can work with the system to keep their families together.
Challenges Grandparents Face in Becoming Foster Parents
While grandparents are often the first choice for placing children with relatives, there are some obstacles they must overcome to become approved foster parents:
Age and Health Requirements
- Foster parents must be over 21 and in good physical and mental health. Grandparents may have chronic conditions that disqualify them.
- Agencies require foster parents to be financially stable. Grandparents may be on fixed incomes that are inadequate.
- All adults in the home must pass criminal background checks. Any red flags may lead to disqualification.
Home Safety Standards
- The home must meet safety and space requirements for foster children. Older homes may not meet current standards.
Lack of Parenting Experience
- Grandparents who haven’t raised young kids in decades may struggle with current best practices. They need training.
Resistance to System Involvement
- Some grandparents want to avoid dealing with social services and the foster system. But this cuts off needed support.
How Grandparents Can Become Approved Foster Parents
While there are challenges, many grandparents successfully become licensed foster parents for their grandchildren. Here are some tips:
Seek a Kinship License
- Kinship foster care provides more flexibility on things like income, age, and space requirements when placing kids with relatives.
Request a Home Study
- The assessor can help determine what modifications or exceptions may be made to licensing standards based on the child’s existing relationship with the grandparent.
Complete Foster Training
- Training prepares grandparents for the realities of foster parenting, connects them with support, and shows the agency their commitment.
Work with a Social Worker
- A social worker can advocate for the grandparent and help them navigate the licensing process and utilize available assistance.
Get Legal Help
- An attorney can advise on the best legal custody options, whether that’s foster care, guardianship, or adoption.
Utilize Support Groups
- Connecting with other relative caregivers provides empowerment, advice, and resources for raising grandchildren.
Seek Financial Assistance
- Agencies can help access available subsidies, grants, and support programs to ease the financial burden of taking in grandchildren.
Make Home Modifications
- If home safety improvements are needed for licensing, agencies may provide funds or connect grandparents with assistance.
Benefits of Grandparents Becoming Licensed Foster Parents
When grandparents choose to fully engage with the foster system by becoming licensed, it can provide significant benefits:
Preserves Family Bonds
- Children remain close to their extended family and community which provides stability.
Grandparents Gain Legal Rights
- As foster parents, grandparents have a legal relationship with the children and input into care decisions.
Increased Financial Support
- Foster families receive stipends, medical coverage, and other benefits to raise the children.
Ongoing Social Worker Assistance
- A caseworker helps the family access resources, navigate the system, and handles supervision.
Specialized Training and Education
- Foster licensing ensures grandparents learn parenting best practices and understand trauma.
Helps Reunification Efforts
- If the goal is to reunify children with their parents, licensed kinship care shows the parents that their children are in good hands.
Gives Kids a Voice
- Children formally entering foster care have rights, an advocate, and a path to permanency.
Although becoming a licensed foster parent is challenging for grandparents, the benefits it provides for both the children and the entire family make it worthwhile to pursue. With determination and support, many grandparents are able to meet the requirements.
For the well-being of the grandchildren, a team approach between agencies and relatives is the ideal situation. When grandparents work with the foster care system, it opens up more resources so they can provide the nurturing home their grandchildren need.