Grandfamilies: New Study Uncovers Common Themes and Challenges in Kinship Care

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Danielle Hawkins

FAIRFAX, VA – At this time, greater than 2.5 million U.S. grandparents are elevating their grandchildren as a result of opioid disaster and different social points. These grandfamilies—the place grandparents are elevating grandchildren within the absence of the organic dad and mom—have gotten more and more frequent. Whereas kinship care is commonly thought of a greater different to kids being positioned in non-relative foster care, grandfamilies typically expertise distinctive challenges with vital financial and social impacts.

Extra not too long ago, with the COVID-19 pandemic, media shops have written concerning the excessive danger these grandparents are at for covid-19, and their dilemmas between staying wholesome and caring for his or her grandchildren, worrying about what might occur to them ought to they fall sick. Some resources are available for grandfamilies, however the actual impacts of the CARES Act on grandfamilies are nonetheless being clarified.

Dr. Catherine Tompkins at George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services is an professional in gerontology and grandparent kinship care. She led a current examine on the challenges grandfamilies face, interviewing 15 low-income grandfamilies and growing the Idea of Compounding Complexity. The examine was revealed on-line in The Gerontologist in February.

“In Fairfax County alone, there are greater than 5,000 grandfamilies, and we’re simply starting to grasp a few of their complexities and challenges. Compounding Complexity explains what these households expertise and might help social employees and different practitioners in working with them,” explains Tompkins.

Theory of Compounding complexity - venn diagram of relationship, situational, and emotional complexity with change and conflict on the outside

The Idea of Compounding Complexity explains that grandfamilies face a mix of three varieties of complexity: relationship complexity, situational complexity, and emotional complexity. An instance of relationship complexity is the change from a previous household relationship to the present one, the place a grandparent is now making day-to-day parenting selections. An instance of situational complexity consists of elevating kids at a time grandparents anticipated to be retired, typically being compelled to return to the workforce. Examples of emotional complexity are grandparents making ready their grandchildren for a go to with a organic father or mother and the father or mother not displaying up or the grandparent being compelled to decide on between their current relationship and their grandchildren:

“I used to be engaged to somebody for eight years. My two grandsons are tough and have particular wants. My fiancé made me select between him and my grandsons, so I selected my grandsons. He left and my coronary heart was damaged.”

These three classes of complexity all happen amidst battle and alter. Battle typically arises from energy dynamics between custodial grandparents and organic dad and mom. Change additionally has a major affect on these households and contributes to the complexity of their experiences.

Of their interviews, Tompkins and colleagues uncovered complicated challenges in these households. One case demonstrates all facets of the Idea of Compounding Complexity:

“A grandfather, caring for his grandson, was holding onto feelings of guilt, remorse and regret for not with the ability to stop the unlawful habits of his daughter and emotions of resentment and disapproval towards his daughter for making dangerous decisions and never placing her youngster first. The daughter anticipated her father to reduce the complexity of the scenario by caring for her youngster however nonetheless permitting her to father or mother from jail and decide up the place she left off when she returned from jail (battle). The grandson was afraid of residing throughout the neighborhood that his mom lived in as soon as she received out of jail (change). Thus, every member of the family had emotional responses to the scenario and to the relationships concerned which compounded the complexity of the scenario.”

“Compounding Complexity affords a brand new lens that service suppliers can use once they work together with grandfamilies,” explains Tompkins. “Whereas that is most informative about our particular group of members, it lays the groundwork for added examine on grandfamilies.”

This examine was funded by the John A. Hartford Basis and supported by Fairfax County Division of Household Companies.

Tompkins is at the moment working with the Fairfax County Kinship Household Institute to run an internet assist group for native kinship households within the Fairfax, Virginia space in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. She suggests considering the distinctive wants of grandfamilies once we take into account methods to assist our group members and make extra assets obtainable in the course of the pandemic.

For future analysis, Tompkins and colleagues suggest research that embody the views of the organic dad and mom and externally validated research utilizing the framework of Compounding Complexity to tell greatest practices for working with these households.

About George Mason College
George Mason College is Virginia’s largest and most various public analysis college. Situated close to Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 38,000 college students from 130 nations and all 50 states. Mason has grown quickly over the previous half-century and is acknowledged for its innovation and entrepreneurship, outstanding range and dedication to accessibility. For extra info, go to

In regards to the School of Well being and Human Companies
George Mason College’s School of Well being and Human Companies prepares college students to turn out to be leaders and form the general public’s well being by educational excellence, analysis of consequence and interprofessional observe. The School enrolls 1,917 undergraduate college students and 950 graduate college students in its nationally acknowledged choices, together with: 5 undergraduate levels, 12 graduate levels, and 11 certificates packages. The School is transitioning to a school public well being within the close to future. For extra info, go to

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