With more than 13,000 children being raised by grandparents or other relatives, the adjustment into parenting is not the only challenge faced by those unexpectedly raising children at an older stage in their life.
Thanks to a partnership between the Comox Valley Transition Society and the Comox Valley Child Development Association, there is assistance for those who need help with finding resources and connecting with peers, amongst other challenges.
“It’s really challenging for people in that place of life. They don’t generally expect to raise children and don’t know how to navigate the systems,” explained Anne Davis, program co-ordinator with the transition society.
Grandparents face unique challenges in caring for their grandchildren and many feel isolated and out of sync with current trends in child-rearing.
Many of the children have experienced trauma and have less than ideal start in life, Davis added.
“It can also be quite isolating. Nobody else in their social circles is suddenly raising a 10-year-old.”
The group began in 2006 as a support network for knowledge and resources, and the number of members has ebbed and flowed in size since its inception.
She noted often grandparents have stepped in to raise children because the parents are unable to raise them due to addiction or violence, or, increasingly, because the parent(s) have died in the opioid crisis.
Currently, it is a weekly group which meets at the transition society every Monday from September to June from 10 to 11:30 a.m., and Davis said many of the members consider each other their extended family.
“The need is there. There’s sometimes multiple children involved, there’s financial implications and so much information to absorb. The long term members of the group who have been through it before and have so much practical knowledge to share.”
Kathy Cruickshank from the Comox Valley Child Development Association said as opposed to foster care, there’s more consistency for a child when they can be raised by a grandparent.
She added research shows children raised in kinship care have better outcomes statistically than those raised in government care and is critical to maintaining family connections, stable relationships and identity.
The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Circle is by drop-in; for more information about the program, call the transition society at 250-897-0511.