Raising grandchildren can present both joys and challenges for grandparents. While being able to spend more time with grandkids is often a blessing, taking on the full responsibilities of parenthood later in life can also strain budgets and energy levels.
This is especially true for grandparents living on fixed incomes who suddenly find themselves needing to cover the costs of raising additional family members. Fortunately, there are government programs available to help provide financial assistance to grand families in need.
Reasons Children May Come to Live With Grandparents
There are many reasons grandparents end up taking on the role of primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Situations leading to this arrangement include:
- The parents’ substance abuse issues – Drug and alcohol addiction problems may render the birth parents unable to properly care for their children. Grandparents often step in to provide a safe, stable home.
- Parental incarceration – If one or both parents are sentenced to jail or prison time, grandparents may take over custody of the children.
- Military deployment – When single parents are deployed overseas, grandparents may become the caregivers for the duration of the absence.
- Death of one or both parents – The passing of a parent or parents due to accident, illness, or other causes is another trigger for grandfamilies forming.
- Child abuse/neglect – In cases where children are removed from their parents’ home due to maltreatment, grandparents are often the first choice for placement if they are able and willing.
Financial Challenges for Grandfamilies
Depending on the circumstances, taking in grandchildren can happen suddenly or gradually. But in either case, becoming the primary provider for minor children again places new financial strains on senior grandparents living on fixed incomes. Expenses may include:
- Increased housing costs – More living space may be needed to accommodate the new family members. Rent or mortgage payments could go up.
- Higher utility bills – More people in the home results in increased costs for electricity, water, gas and other services.
- Extra food/clothing/transportation – Day-to-day costs inevitably rise with more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and transport. Kids have ongoing material needs.
- Child care -quality child care can be expensive. After-school care or full daycare may be needed if grandparents work.
- School supplies/activities – Children have constant school-related expenses plus costs for sports/hobbies/social activities.
- Medical/dental costs – Health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs rise with more dependents. Kids need regular checkups.
Without assistance, these added financial burdens can stretch limited budgets to the breaking point.
Food Stamps Can Help Alleviate the Stress
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, provides essential support that can relieve some of the monetary strain on grand families. SNAP offers funds that can be used to purchase groceries and other eligible food items at approved retailers.
To qualify for SNAP benefits, households must meet certain criteria regarding income and expenses. SNAP uses gross monthly income and family size to calculate a threshold – households with totals under that amount will qualify.
So larger grandfamilies with less monthly income are more likely to be eligible. Specifics on requirements:
- Households must have a gross monthly income under a certain amount based on size. For example, for a family of 3, the limit is around $2,114 per month.
- There are deductions and exemptions that can lower countable income and increase chances of qualifying, such as high monthly medical expenses.
- Immigration status does not affect child or senior citizen applicants who are U.S. citizens.
- General eligibility is limited to U.S. citizens and certain lawfully present non-citizens.
In summary, taking in grandchildren can significantly raise monthly costs for seniors. SNAP provides extra food purchasing assistance to help alleviate the financial strain if household income requirements are met.
Applying and Using SNAP Benefits
Applying for SNAP involves submitting an application with proof of identity, expenses, and income. If approved, funds are provided monthly through an EBT card. Here are key steps and usage details:
- Apply – Pre-screening tool online to evaluate the likelihood of qualifying before applying formally. Submit the application through a state agency online, by mail, or in person.
- Provide documents – Income statements, rent receipts, utility bills, and medical receipts may be needed. Proving dependents and household costs boost approval chances.
- Get EBT card – Approved households receive cards in the mail to access benefits. Funds are deposited monthly and roll over if unused. The card works like a debit card.
- Use at participating retailers– SNAP benefits are accepted at most major supermarkets plus many specialty food stores. Say EBT at checkout.
- Buy eligible foods – Groceries, produce, breads, meats, dairy products are OK. Prepared hot foods usually don’t qualify.
- Check balances – Card and online accounts show the benefit amount remaining that month. Spend wisely.
Utilizing SNAP is relatively straightforward for eligible grandfamilies once approved. The extra grocery purchasing power can make raising grandchildren more financially manageable.
Additional Support Programs
Along with SNAP, other government and nonprofit initiatives also provide help to grandparents caring for their grandchildren. Options include:
- Cash assistance – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may supply direct funds depending on state.
- Housing help – Subsidized senior housing, rent vouchers, utility assistance through HUD and similar organizations.
- Support groups – Area Agencies on Aging connect grandfamilies for shared advice and resources. AARP offers support programs also.
- Respite care – Some nonprofits and churches offer free temporary child care to give grandparents a needed break.
- Legal aid – Assistance obtaining guardianship or adoption through local legal aid offices or nonprofits.
Along with food stamps (SNAP), tapping into all available support resources maximizes stability and eases the burden on grandparents raising grandchildren.
Taking on raising grandchildren due to tough family circumstances can greatly strain seniors living on fixed incomes. The extra costs of housing, feeding, and clothing additional dependents adds up quickly.
Food stamps through SNAP provide crucial grocery purchasing assistance if eligibility requirements can be met. Applying requires sharing income data, expenses, and household size – the larger the family and lower the income compared to thresholds, the better chance of approval. If accepted, SNAP funds are provided monthly via EBT card that works like a debit card at participating grocery retailers.
Food stamps lift some of the financial weight, allowing grandfamilies to focus more resources on providing a nurturing home. Other support programs through government and nonprofits also help provide housing, legal assistance, respite care and more.
With the right support, grandchildren being raised by heroic grandparents have an improved chance at a stable, loving childhood.