Need for Services for Grandparents and Grandchildren

Project Healthy Grandparents (PHG) meets the needs of an under-served population-grandparent caregivers. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2000, 6.3% families were headed by a grandparent in the absence of the biological parent. PHG’s experience suggests that Atlanta has a similar percentage of grandparent-headed households. While PHG’s services are available to all grandparents raising their grandchildren, regardless of race or ethnicity, 99% of the families served to date have been African-American, and the majority are low-income families in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. Grandparents in the program have ranged from ages 35 to 82 years old.

Due to their often advanced age, poor health, poverty, and lack of transportation, these grandparents are typically unable to provide the grandchildren in their care with much beyond the basic needs. The overwhelming majority of the children involved in PHG have been neglected, abused or abandoned by their biological parents.

Because of its association with Georgia State University, PHG has been studied extensively by academicians. All available data cannot be included here; some representative data follows:

  • PHG grandparent caregivers experience high levels of psychological distress, and 28.4% have psychological distress scores in the clinical range, indicating the need for intervention.
  • Grandparent caregivers often feel socially isolated, without support networks, and only 18% are currently either married or living with a partner.
  • PHG found a strong correlation between grandparents’ psychological distress and poor physical health; problems include hypertension, obesity, arthritis, diabetes, and cardiac problems.
  • Most PHG families rely on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and social security for income, and there is only a small proportion of employed caregivers. Financial burdens create higher stress levels for families.
  • Nearly 40% of PHG children scored in the clinical range on the Child Behavior Checklist (a standardized measurement), indicating serious emotional problems.