Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Lombard, IL – Any grandparent will tell you that grandchildren are one of the greatest gifts of aging. As we raise our families and our children leave the proverbial nest, most of us look with anticipation to retirement with the ability to pursue hobbies, volunteer, travel, etc. We also look forward to becoming grandparents or great aunts and uncles, playing a role in helping the next generation grow, without all the responsibility of a parent. But what happens when this dream is turned on its head? When, as older adults, we find ourselves needing to parent our children’s children? We become grandparents raising grandchildren or relatives raising children. We become a kinship family.

According to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), in Illinois, over 100,000 grandparents are raising grandchildren long term. These numbers have been trending upwards over the last decades because of the opioid crisis. However, even before this epidemic, grandparents had a long history of assuming caregiving responsibilities when parents were unable to care for their children. While some grandparents raising grandchildren do so formally through the foster care system, 95% of do so informally. According to a study, nationally, this informal arrangement saves taxpayers $4 billion per year.

Not only do kinship care arrangements save tax dollars, but research shows that when children cannot remain with their parents, being raised by relatives, and grandparents in particular, carries some distinct advantages to children. They benefit from learning from another generation, experience more stability, and have better behavior and mental health outcomes than children in other care arrangements. In addition to the benefits to children, older adults who are parenting their grandchildren report feeling a higher sense of purpose and social connection than other older adults.

Many of these kinship or grandparent caregivers are over 60, retired or living on a fixed income. Around 20% are living below poverty. Most are thrown into this caregiving role suddenly and are not aware of services and resources available to them, especially if they are outside the formal foster care system. So, how can we support these kinship families? Thankfully, there are resources available. Kinship Navigator Programs across the state provide connections to kinship care resources. The area agencies on aging are leading an Illinois Family Caregiver Coalition to advocate for issues affecting caregivers of all ages, including kinship caregivers.

To share these and other resources and encourage collaboration, AgeGuide is hosting its 3rd annual virtual caregiver seminar, focusing on kinship families, entitled Kinship Care: Supporting Kinship Families through Collaboration. This virtual seminar will be held on November 15th from 10:30-Noon. It will highlight existing resources for kinship families throughout the state, including a new pilot program championed by Representative Natalie Manley, in Will County.

To register for this free seminar, visit


AgeGuide Northeastern Illinois, an Area Agency on Aging, is a nonprofit organization responsible for developing and coordinating a network of services for older persons throughout an eight-county area in northeastern Illinois. AgeGuide informs and advises public and private agencies and the general public of the needs of older people living in its region and acts as an advocate on their behalf. The Agency serves DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties. Other information about AgeGuide, other topics of interest to older adults, and links to additional resources are available at



Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates from us!