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Becoming Parents a Second Time Around

October 25, 2010
 
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After raising four children, the last thing Jacklyn Laird expected was to return to full-time parenting. Yet that's what happened eight years ago when she became the primary caregiver for her four grandchildren.

The Reseda resident had hoped to save for her retirement. But, instead, she struggles to make ends meet to care for her son's children, whose ages range from 10 to 16 years. "I worry about the same things that parents in their 20s and 30s worry about - the only difference is, I worry about what will happen if something happens to me."

Laird is among a growing number of grandparents who are raising children because their parents are not in their lives. A recent report from Pew Social Research found that the number of children living with their grandparents slowly rose over the last decade, but increased sharply from 2007 to 2008.

According to U.S. Census data, there were 2.5 million grandparents nationwide responsible for most of their grandchildren's basic needs in 2007. In Los Angeles County, there were nearly 90,000 grandparents as caregivers, based on 2000 Census data, and that number is expected to grow significantly when 2010 figures are released.

"There's no question the number of grandparents as caregivers is increasing," said Madelyn Gordon, executive director of Grandparents As Parents, a Canoga Park-based, nonprofit organization that provides programs and services for grandparents and other relatives raising at-risk children. "There are currently 17,000 children in foster care in L.A. County with at least half being raised by relatives."

Most of the 1,000 families GAP serves in the Los Angeles area have at-risk children with an average age of 0 to 5 years. Gordon cites drugs and incarceration as the main reasons grandparents return to full-time parenting. More recently, the weak economy has also had an impact.

GAP's services, which include weekly support groups in English and Spanish and crisis counseling and advocacy, are a lifeline to many, including Laird. "After seven years of feeling like I was plunging down a cliff, I found GAP and learned I can get through this because I'm not alone," she said.

For more information about GAP, call 818-264-0880 or go to www.grandparentsasparents.org.

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