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EXPERT AVAILABLE: MU Researcher Currently Studying Dynamics of ‘Grandfamilies’ and the Issues Faced when Raising Grandchildren and Relative or Kinship Children

Researcher seeks Missourian volunteers to participate in the study

June 03, 2014

Story Contact(s):
Jeff Sossamon, sossamonj@missouri.edu, 573-882-3346

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – According to recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics, more than 2.2 million children are being cared for by their grandparents, other relatives or loved ones. Added financial strains caused by this living arrangement and subsequent legal issues create challenges and tend to push these “grandfamilies” into poverty. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are analyzing how Missourian grandfamilies cope with pressures created by this increasingly common family arrangement and are seeking research volunteers for this understudied group.

“In Missouri, nearly 121,000 children live with a grandparent or other relative,” said Karen Traylor, a doctoral candidate with the counseling psychology department in the MU College of Education and a family support specialist with ParentLink, an MU program that provides resources and services for Missouri families. “Of those children, approximately 17,000 live with their grandparents without a biological parent present. This caregiving arrangement poses a number of challenges when you consider that grandparents are increasingly responsible for incurred debt caused by their new family dynamic and do not have financial or community assistance from state or local governments.”

Recent studies indicate that grandparents or close family members may or may not have legal custody of the children in their care, making it difficult to apply for or enroll in school and other programs. Research also suggests that some caregivers receive child support from a parent, but most do not. Finally, grandparents who are raising younger children are concerned about the physical challenges of parenting and the doubts about their own health, Traylor said.

“Currently we’re studying the impact of family routines and rituals in grandfamilies and how grandparents, relatives, and kinship caregivers might utilize and capitalize on the resources available to them,” Traylor said. “These types of families will become more predominant as our population ages, so our research will help us learn what keeps families healthy and children successful. With this knowledge, we hope to provide insight into what can help the next wave of grandfamilies.”

Traylor and her advisor, Keith Herman, professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology at MU, are seeking grandfamily participants with children aged 3-17. After completing a brief survey, participants will receive a “Kinship Care Resource Guide,” and will be entered in drawings for gift cards. More resources for grandfamilies as well as survey signup information can be found here: http://education.missouri.edu/orgs/parentlink/grandfamilies/.

ParentLink provides information, resources and support for professionals serving families and Missouri families of all types, including parents with newborn babies, grandparents raising children, student parents, incarcerated parents and parents of children with special needs. Family support specialists are available by phone at 800-552-8522 or email your questions at the following link: http://education.missouri.edu/orgs/parentlink/warmline_question.php.

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