TAKE ACTION AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT THIS GRANDPARENTS’ DAY!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012!!

By Sarah Allan, GRG Program Coordinator

Grandparents’ Day is a day to appreciate, recognize and celebrate every grandparent everywhere in the world. Grandparents who share time, wisdom, energy and love with grandchildren and great grandchildren; who provide child care while their children work; who spend their savings making sure their grandchildren have “a better life”; who don’t see their grandchildren and miss them dearly; and those who are raising their grandchildren 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, month after month, year after year.

In Canada, more than 65,000 children are being raised by a grandparent or other relative without any parental involvement.[i] In British Columbia, there are almost 10,000 children who are being raised by their grandparents.[ii] This is more children than are in foster care in BC.[iii] Many of these children end up being cared for by their grandparents as the result of a crisis situation involving the child’s parents, such as the involvement of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, neglect or abandonment, drug addiction, mental health issues, incarceration or death.[iv] These amazing ‘grandparents raising grandchildren’, or ‘GRG’s’, have been referred to as the province’s ‘invisible foster care system’ as without them, the taxpayer funded foster care system would be responsible for the care and well-being of all of these children.

The Ministry of Children and Families says that “Permanent, stable relationships are a major determinant of whether children feel safe and secure and a fundamental element of well-being.”[v] They state that, “If a child has to leave their parental home, the Ministry or Delegated Aboriginal Agency (DAA) strives to place the child with people who know the child and will maintain a positive, life-long relationship with them, their families and communities, thereby minimizing disruptions to children and their families.”[vi] In order to keep children with their families in stable and permanent living situations, GRG families need financial and social support that is currently not sufficient.

We all know that raising children is expensive, and for many grandparents, the cost of raising their grandchildren unexpectedly means that they have to postpone retirement, reduce the hours they work, go back to work after retiring, or spend their retirement savings.[vii] Most GRG’s receive no financial assistance from the children’s parents and many of their grandchildren have physical, mental, emotional or behavioural challenges that require additional supports. Many grandparents reach out seeking financial and social support to assist them in raising their grandchildren, but the benefits currently available are minimal. While foster parents and children receive monthly financial assistance and have their medical, dental and additional supports paid for, many GRG families continue to struggle.

This Grandparents’ Day, we ask you to show your support for GRG’s by taking action in one or more of the following ways:

1)      Read and learn more about GRG’s:

2)      Send a grandparent a card:

3)      Write a letter or email to your Member of Parliament (MP) and/or  your Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA):

  • Find out who your Member of Parliament is and/or who your Member of the Legislative Assembly is, and what their mailing or email address is;
  • Use the information provided above and below to write a letter or email asking them to recognize and support the important role that GRG’s play in our society and in the lives of thousands of BC children. Make sure to add your own personal message as well!
    • You might tell your MP, that:
      • Many grandparents raising grandchildren must go to court and fight to try to ensure that they are able to continue seeing their grandchildren. The legislation should be changed to protect grandparents’ right of access to their grandchildren and a grandchild’s right of access to their grandparent. Ask for legislation protecting grandparents and grandchildren’s right of access!
      • Grandparent’s raising grandchildren who receive CPP disability benefits need the Children’s benefit to continue after the grandparent reaches the age of 65. Currently, the Children’s benefit ends when the grandparent turns 65, despite still raising their grandchildren and still being disabled! Ask for CPP Children’s benefits to continue after age 65 for GRG’s!
      • You might tell your MLA that:
        • Grandparents raising grandchildren need to regain what was lost when the Child in the Home of a Relative (CIHR) program ended in March 2010. Those who were already receiving CIHR benefits (which range from $257.46 to $454.32 per month depending on the age of the child), were allowed to continue receiving it until the child reaches age 19. New GRG’s are not eligible for CIHR and no similar benefit has been enacted to replace it. Many of these GRG’s receive no monthly financial support. Ask for the creation of monthly benefits for all children being raised by their grandparents!
        • You might tell your MLA that:
          • GRG’s are undervalued! GRG’s care for children who might otherwise have become part of the foster care system, but these caregivers do not receive the same financial or social support that foster parent’s do. GRG’s and children being raised by their grandparents do not have access to child care, respite services, extended health and dental care or a monthly financial benefit like foster parents and children in foster care do. Ask for GRG’s to receive the same financial and other supports that foster parent’s do!
          • Most GRG’s do not qualify for the new Extended Family Program (EFP) that was enacted after the CIHR program ended. This financial benefit is not available to GRG’s who have legal guardianship of their grandchild, or whose adult children, the parents, are out of contact or are living in another province. This benefit is meant to be a ‘temporary’ financial support with a goal of returning children to their parents, but the situation of most GRG’s is not temporary! Ask for the Extended Family Program eligibility requirements to be expanded to include GRG’s with legal  guardianship, and who are caring for their grandchildren in a permanent manner!
  • Send your email or mail your letter (no stamp required for letters to MP’s!) and encourage a friend to do the same! Try sending your letter to your local newspaper as well!

4)      Write a letter or email to the Minister and/or Deputy Minister of Children and Family Development (MCFD):

  • The Minister, Honourable Mary McNeil’s address is:
    • PO BOX 9057 Stn Prov. Govt.

Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

MCF.Minister@gov.bc.ca

  • The Deputy Minister, Stephen Brown’s address is:
    • PO BOX 9721 Stn Prov. Govt.

Victoria, BC V8W 9S2

MCF.DeputyMinistersOffice@gov.bc.ca

  • Use the information provided above and below to write a letter or email reminding MCFD  that keeping families together is in a child’s best interest, and asking them to support the important role that GRG’s play in our society and in the lives of many BC children. Make sure to add your own personal message as well!
    • You might tell the Minister and/or Deputy Minister that:
      • GRG’s need support from informed advocates as they interact with the Ministry of Children and Families, the legal system and the daily challenges of parenting again, and need spaces to meet and support other GRG’s. The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Line and Support Circles provide GRG’s with much needed access to information, resources and advocacy, while the GRG Support Circles create spaces for GRG’s to talk, learn and support each other. Tell the Ministry you agree with and appreciate their funding for these important support services for GRG’s!
      • Grandparents raising grandchildren need to regain what was lost when the Child in the Home of a Relative (CIHR) program ended in March 2010. Those who were already receiving CIHR benefits (which range from $257.46 to $454.32 per month depending on the age of the child), were allowed to continue receiving it until the child reaches age 19. New GRG’s are not eligible for CIHR and no similar benefit has been enacted to replace it. Many of these GRG’s receive no monthly financial support. Ask for the creation of monthly benefits for children being raised by their grandparents!
      • Most GRG’s do not qualify for the new Extended Family Program (EFP) that was enacted after the CIHR program ended. This financial benefit is not available to GRG’s who have legal guardianship of their grandchild, or whose adult children, the parents, are out of contact or are living in another province. This benefit is meant to be a ‘temporary’ financial support with a goal of returning children to their parents, but the situation of most GRG’s is not temporary! Ask for the Extended Family Program eligibility requirements to be expanded to include grandparents with legal guardianship, and who are caring for their grandchildren in a permanent manner!
  • Send your email or mail your letter and encourage a friend to do the same! Try sending your letter to your local newspaper as well!

5)      Donate to Parent Support Services Society of BC (PSS) or other organizations that support GRG’s and other grandparents. Train to become a volunteer facilitator of a GRG Support Circle in your community. {PSS provides services for parents and GRG’s including volunteer run support groups and parenting resources and service referrals. PSS also operates the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Line, where GRG’s and other relative caregivers can call and speak to an advocate Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 to 3pm toll-free at 1-855-474-9777 (1-855-GRG-PSSS).}

6)      Spread the word! Tell your friends, families and co-workers about the ‘invisible foster care system’ and the important, and largely unrecognized, role that these grandparents play in our society. Ask them to take one of the actions above, and ask them to consider what is being done to support GRG’s when they vote in the upcoming provincial election!

Happy Grandparents’ Day and thank you for helping us create a world where all children and their families are nurtured, valued and safe.

 

 

_______________________________

1 Statistics Canada, 2006 Census

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Legal Research Project – Parent Support Services Society of BC and University of Victoria

5 Ministry of Children and Family Development 2012/2013 – 2014/2015 Service Plan at page 14.

6 Ibid.

7 Supra note 4.