ARTICLES / Children / When
Family Ties Turn into Entanglements... /
By Judy Paschalis
It’s not an isolated situation — in fact, it’s quite
common to find grandparents and other relatives raising
children in their extended families. In Ohio, it’s
estimated that 10 percent of the households with
children under 18 years of age have grandparents as the
primary caregivers of the children, according to
research by Ohio Department on Aging and Bowling Green
State University. And that’s just grandparents.
Other relatives— aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and
sisters – have also taken on the parenting in many
families. Some who work with “kinship families,”
as they’re called, say they think the 10 percent figure
More often than not, the children living with relatives
came to live with their grandparents or aunts or uncles
without the involvement of a child welfare agency.
In other words, grandmother went to visit and found the
house a mess, the kids alone, and Mom and Dad nowhere to
be seen. Grandma packed up the kids and they’ve
been with her ever since.
For most relatives who are thrust into raising children,
it’s a complex and, many times, bewildering situation –
the family ties have turned into entanglements.
It’s complex for many reasons, not the least of
which are the guilt and anger that occur when
grandparents must step-in because their own children
cannot or will not take care of their offspring.
Imagine it’s your adult child who would rather go
out partying than take proper care of the baby.
The primary reason children are being raised by
relatives is drug and alcohol abuse by the birth
parents. This leads to neglect, if not outright
abuse, of the children. (Death, illness, domestic
violence, unemployment and teen pregancy are also
reasons, but substance abuse overwhelmingly tops the
Naturally, these neglected children also are filled with
complex emotions. They are most likely angry and
may feel that the situation is their fault. Most of all,
they are deeply confused, sad and depressed by what is
essentially abandonment by their parents. These
feelings lead to temper tantrums, inability to focus,
aggressive behaviors and other problems such as trouble
making friends and achieving in school. Also, many
of the children have learning disabilities or delays
because of the chaotic life they have led, or because
they have physical disabilities such as fetal alcohol
effects, or deficits because they were not nourished
properly or stimulated as infants.