Assistance for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children

On this page: State


Grandparents and other caregiver relatives play an important role in family well-being, especially in low-income families. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, approximately 2.6 million grandparents are financially responsible for meeting their grandchildren’s basic needs. These grandparent caregivers are disproportionately poor and disproportionately African American. Approximately one in five grandparent caregivers are poor. African Americans make up 21 percent of grandparent caregivers but about 13 percent of the population.

An array of public benefit programs are available to many grandparent-care families. For example, of children in low-income grandparent-care families, 43 percent live in families receiving food-assistance benefits. Grandparents caring for a grandchild may be eligible for “child-only” welfare benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), regardless of the grandparents’ income and work status. Income-eligible grandparent households can receive SNAPSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) SNAP provides a monthly supplement for purchasing nutritious food. If you qualify, you’ll get a debit card to use for groceries. Also commonly called Food Stamps. benefits to supplement their food supply, with their grandchild’s benefit included in their SNAP grant. Additionally, grandparents can apply for SNAP benefits solely for the children in their care as individuals, as well as apply for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program.

The amounts available through these programs are quite low. And in some cases they are lower for grandparent and other family caregivers than for traditional foster parents.

Grandparents and other family members raising children face substantial difficulties in negotiating the public benefit system. Some rules and program structures inadvertently discourage the creation of formal guardianships by grandparents and other family caregivers. Others produce significant hurdles for grandparents and other family caregivers to enroll children in school or obtain medical treatment for the children

(For more on the legal aspects of grandparent caregiving, see Chapter 12, Personal and Legal Rights refer to specific section of Chapter 12.)

Assistance for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children: Policy

Goal of foster policy

In this policy: FederalState

Federal and state governments should create policies and regulations that encourage grandparents and other caregiver relatives to keep families intact whenever possible.

Financial assistance

In this policy: FederalState

Public-benefit programs should ensure that families headed by grandparents and other caregiver relatives receive sufficient support for economic security and well-being.

For households receiving multiple TANF child-only grants, the grant amounts should be equal for all the children, rather than declining for each additional child as is now typically the case.

States, with the assistance of the federal government, should increase available benefit levels, adopt subsidized guardianship programs, and reduce the disparity between benefits paid to grandparents and other caregiver relatives versus benefits paid to foster parents.

For households headed by grandparents and receiving child-only grants under the TANF program, states should increase the size of such grants to, e.g., approximately 80 percent to 85 percent of what the state would provide a foster-care household.