Nearly one in five senior citizens in Arkansas don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Most are on fixed incomes that don’t pay enough for utilities, medical expenses and food. The problem is multiplied for grandparents caring for their grandchildren.
In Arkansas, more than 11 percent of children live with their grandparents or another non-parent relative, and roughly 25 percent of those live in poverty. Programs like state aid for food don’t provide much help: The Arkansas Food Bank says the state Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) provides about $12 a month – so little that many don’t bother applying.
People who don’t ask for help don’t get counted so the number of grandparents caring for children is likely larger than reported.
One story showed how this could happen: When the food pantry manager of one rural Arkansas town asked high school honors society members to volunteer to help senior citizens carry food to their cars, the number of seniors coming each week for food jumped 20 percent. She attributed this to students who live with their grandparents telling them affordable food was available.
Other reports have grandparents choosing between food for their grandchildren and their medication or their heat.
Custody for grandparents
When a child’s parents are abusive, imprisoned or suffer from addiction or mental instability, a court can grant custody to a relative, including grandparents.
When deciding on whether to issue custody for grandparents – or any caregiver – a judge will consider these factors among others in determining what is in the best interests of the child:
- The emotional and physical needs of the child, and the capability of the grandparents to meet the needs of the child
- The wishes of the child if the child is capable of making decisions
- The wishes of the grandparents
- The strength and length of the relationship between the child and the grandparents
- The child’s adjustment to the home, school and community
- The ability of the grandparents to provide love and affection to the child.
After assuming custody, the grandparents assume responsibility for the child’s care. It’s a labor of love because often grandparents will rather take care of their children’s children than see them in foster care.