Back-to-School for Grandfamilies

As the back-to-school season begins, it is essential to remember the thousands of grandparents across Illinois who are the caregivers that will be sending off their grandchildren to school. It is an important time to recognize the barriers faced and contributions made by grandparents who are raising their grandchildren (GRGs). These grandfamilies encounter unique challenges that can make the transition into a new school year especially difficult. However, with specialized supports in place, the power of intergenerational connection will ensure that children in grandfamilies can thrive. 

Many grandparents take on the role of caregiver because of unforeseen circumstances, such as the death of a parent, substance abuse, deportation, incarceration, and more. Grandparents may struggle with the emotional and financial burden of caring for their grandchildren, especially regarding back-to-school expenses like school supplies and new clothes. Despite their challenges, grandfamilies offer a unique opportunity to strengthen the bond between generations. Research shows that intergenerational connections positively impact both grandparents and their grandchildren. GRGs can benefit from the opportunity to stay active and engaged in their communities, while grandchildren benefit from the wisdom and experience of their elders.

According to the May 2023 Generations United Grandfamily Fact Sheet, “When children cannot remain in their parents’ care, research shows they do best in grandfamilies.” However, GRGs find themselves without the legal rights to enroll their child in school unless they complete an adoption or guardianship. Greenlight Family Services eliminates legal barriers like these by offering sliding-scale adoption and guardianship services from our outstanding legal team. 

At Greenlight, we are continuing to enhance our services for intergenerational families. Greenlight COO Ruth McMahon recently presented alongside Adrian Charniak, GRAND Voice for Illinois, at the National Generations United 2023 Conference in Washington, DC, about the unique and practical approach Greenlight takes to serve grandfamilies. Greenlight pairs Staff Attorneys with Family Development Specialists to provide empowering and comprehensive legal and social services. Greenlight plans to increase access to care for GRGs, including hiring a full-time Grandfamily Navigator to implement best practices and provide specialized support. 

New Law Creates New Support

On August 2, 2023, Gov. Pritzker signed House Bill 0780, launching a Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Pilot Program in Will County. This program will provide much-needed aid to the many incredible GRGs navigating state resources specialized for their needs. “This new law will make it so much easier for grandparents raising grandchildren to access the services and resources they need without spending hours browsing government websites,” said Illinois Department on Aging Director Paula Basta. Greenlight agrees!

Greenlight is proud to offer additional resources to help ensure that Illinois is a grandfamily-friendly state. By supporting these grandfamilies, we can create a stronger, more connected Illinois that values the contributions of all generations.