“The State of Grandfamilies in Louisiana”

Report Highlights

Among states, Louisiana heralds the fourth largest percentage of children living with grandparents in the country. Nearly ten percent of all children in Louisiana (117,859) live in grandparent-headed households of which nearly 65,000 of them live there without either parent present. 

  • The most common circumstances that require their intervention in raising grandchildren arises from: drug and alcohol addiction, untreated mental illness, poor health often resulting from HIV/AIDS, poverty and incarceration among the biological parents.
  • Grandparents raising grandchildren cuts across racial, geographic and socio-economic lines: In the United States, nearly half are White, 30 percent African-American, and 17 percent Hispanic/Latino while 1:5 live in poverty. In Louisiana, 38 percent are White and 57 percent African-American and, in terms of poverty, they are significantly poorer in that nearly 1:3 live in poverty.     
  • Children being raised by grandparents, known as kinship care, fare better than children raised in the child welfare foster care system, as they: feel more “normal” and loved, stay in one home, are more likely to remain in their community and school, more likely to remain with their siblings and perform better in school.
  • Children, whose grandparents have had to intervene to care for them, have experienced some sort of trauma. As a result, children in kinship care experience a higher incidence of health problems, physical limitations, emotional and behavioral challenges and low levels of school engagement than the average child.      
  • Grandparents raising grandchildren are caring for children who are vulnerable and are at risk of entering the state foster care system. If only 8 percent of those caring for their grandchildren could no longer do so, it would possibly double the foster care budget. The state spends approximately $53 million dollars a year in core services for an estimated 5,000 children in the foster care system on any given day.
  • Every time the state is able to place a child into a grandparent’s household when they must make an out-of-home placement; taxpayers save not only in terms of the costs of caring for the child but also all the administrative expenses such as evaluating the child, transportation, home visits by caseworkers, and processing case records. 
  • Half of Louisiana’s population 50 years and older – representing at least 85 percent of the grandparents raising grandchildren age cohort -- are living at 150 percent or below the poverty level. 
  • Despite the fact that many grandparents qualify for benefits to help raise their grandchildren, such as the Kinship Care Subsidy Program, a significant number don’t apply because they fear that child support enforcement provisions will cause a great deal of conflict with the biological parents.
  • Many grandparents steer clear of the court system to gain full custody of their grandchildren because they believe that the biological rights of the parents prevail over the best interest of the child. They also can’t afford the legal costs.
  • According to the Health Care Financing Administration, “Children in kinship care (grandparents raising grandchildren) are being cared for by older, single grandmothers who are in poor health, less likely to receive public programs and live in poverty.”    
  • Beyond the children, the grandparents themselves are at risk as they cope with the stress of raising children in addition to grappling with their own tenuous health status, all of which is exacerbated by poverty and limited incomes.    


Two hundred grandparents raising grandchildren were interviewed and surveyed for this report. The charts in this press kit reveal a portrait of a resilient yet, overburdened generation of Louisiana elders who are raising 433 children giving them safe, permanent homes and keeping them out of the state’s foster care system. It is a safety net, however, with threads that are wearing thin.


The report identifies twenty action steps to advance the cause of grandparents raising grandchildren, some of which are: relax child support enforcement for kinship care subsidy eligibility, pass Defacto Custodian and Stand-by guardianship laws, create a Kinship Care Navigator Program making it easier for grandparents to access services and work with the schools (available through federal funding), raise the eligibility cap from 150% to 200% of poverty for the Kinship Care Subsidy Program and make subsidy grants equal to foster care payments, use national Family Caregiver Support Program funding to provide respite care and support groups to grandparents raising grandchildren through Councils on Aging, and create a legislatively empowered “Intra-governmental Council on Grandfamilies and Kinship Care” to act as a dynamic and ongoing nexus that consolidates the energies, skills and knowledge among a wide range of stakeholders to meet the demands and needs of Louisiana’s largest player in the child welfare arena: Grandfamilies. 


References

“Louisiana State Fact Sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children” (2005) based on US Census Data 2000. 

US Census Bureau, Table DP-2. Profile Selected Characteristics: 2000, cited in “Louisiana: A State Fact Sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, January 2008. 

Ibid 

Louisiana State Fact Sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Grandchildren, Jan 2008, AARP et al. 

Health Care Finance Administration, “Custodial grandparents often live in poverty,” No. 4, July 2004. 

 

For more information Contact:

Dr. Linda M. Rhodes, Director

Hirtzel Institute on Health Education and Aging

16 West Division Street

North East, Pennsylvania 16428

Email: lrhodes@mercyhurst.edu

Voice: 610-296-9523