When a troubled family situation puts grandchildren at risk, Virginia grandparents often step up to provide a loving, stable home. However, becoming a parent again in the years leading up to or following retirement can cause severe financial strain. Here are some of the resources that may be available to grandparents caring for their grandchildren.
According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 7 million grandparents live with one or more grandchildren, and they have a higher probability of living in poverty than their peers who are not caring for grandchildren. Among these grandparents, 2.7 million were responsible for raising their grandchildren, and the majority (34 percent) were between the ages of 50 and 59.
These numbers are bleak, particularly because grandparents may face unexpected expenses when serving as primary guardians for their grandchildren. Fortunately, as highlighted by the Virginia Department of Aging, assistance with finances, nutrition and other essential facets of parenting is available for grandparents who are struggling to support children on a tight budget.
One valuable resource is Supplemental Security Income, which is a Social Security program designed to provide support to the young, the elderly and those with low incomes. Recipients must prove that they are citizens and residents and meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Being disabled, elderly or blind and having restricted resources or income
- Being 18 to 22 years old
- Being younger than 18 years old
- Being prevented from working for a year or more because of a physical or mental disorder (individuals who fall within this category may be over the age of 18)
Children with disabilities may be put on the fast track to receive SSI benefits, although the general application process can be lengthy.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is another valuable federal resource to provide funding for parents and grandparents raising children under the age of 18. Interested grandparents can apply for food stamps simultaneously to help make the grocery bill affordable.
Apart from food stamps, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children is also designed to provide dietary assistance for low-income families, although it is targeted toward those with children younger than five years. Grandparents who qualify for WIC can receive nutritional information and healthy foods for young children free of cost.
The majority of these assistance programs do not require that the eligible grandchildren be under the legal custody of the grandparents. To apply, however, grandparents must generally provide proof of U.S. citizenship, state residency and identity information for the grandchildren.