ANNAPOLIS – As the state turns more and more to grandparents to shoulder the responsibility of raising their grandchildren, the grandparents are turning to the state and other caregivers for some guidance on how to do it.
By fall, grandparents will have a directory of resources produced by the state. But if they need help now, they can turn to organizations like the YWCA, where caregivers in similar situations offer advice.
In response to calls from senior caretakers, the state Department of Human Resources and the Department of Aging have compiled a grandparent resource directory.
The directory is designed to connect elderly caregivers with information they need to care for children, said Pamela Causey spokeswoman for the Department of Aging.
Often it has been decades since these caregivers were parents and they dont know the basics, like where to get medical care or how to enroll children in school, Causey said.
Foster care system changes have caused the increase in grandparent caretakers, said Susan London Russell, an intergenerational specialist at the Department of Aging.
There is a recent national trend to find alternatives to foster care because there are too many children in the system, Russell said. Maryland has chosen to try placing children first with other family members, sometimes causing tremendous problems for grandparents, she said.
In some cases, grandparents gave up jobs, Russell said. Others dipped into retirement funds to pay for the childrens medical expenses. They also had numerous complex legal problems.
The directory lists organizations that can help with these problems, explains what they do, and tells how to reach them. It will give grandparents a list of places to go for help in seven major categories: legal matters, family support and counseling, financial matters, family medical care, education, safety, and childcare.
Caregivers are also offering to share their experiences with others in the same situation. Claudia Dock, a Baltimore grandmother taking care of her granddaughter, began Kinship Caregiver Resources to help people taking care of relatives children.
Dock works with organizations like the YWCA and the Department of Aging to set up support groups for kinship caregivers. Caretakers can talk about their problems and get help from each other and from counselors, said Alice Harris, the director for YWCAs West County Family Support Center. They talk about everything from legal issues to health issues to how to deal with the children coming into their homes, Harris said. The goal is to bring the family together, Harris said, to look at the family in a very holistic manner and to begin some healing. Dock’s dream, however, is to open a resource center; a central place where family caregivers can come for information. It is a dream she has already begun work on. “We’re not asking for the system to come in and take over,” Dock said. “All we need is help. A lot of us have been working all our lives and had to stop to take care of these children.”