When planning for her future, Nancy had never imagined that at 79-years-old she would be widowed and caring for her two great-granddaughters alone. Her story, however, is not unlike many of the nearly 40,000 grandparent caregivers in Ohio.
Nancy has four great-grandchildren—full custody of two. Her great-grandsons live down the road with their other great-grandmother, who is 89. The boys visit often, and Nancy watches over them when she is needed and is able. Though it was not in her plan, Nancy says she wanted to do anything she could to keep her grandchildren safe and with the family that loves them, though that commitment has not come without challenges.
The self-sufficiency wage in Belmont County for Nancy’s specific household composition is $2035/mo. Her current monthly income meets their basic needs though leaves little for emergencies or long-term planning. And because she is receiving temporary assistance as part of that income, both short-term and long-term planning must occur.
But what type of planning must take place? Some considerations include financial planning and end-of-life plans for custody issues, childcare, and education for Chloe (14) and Rylie (7). In Nancy’s situation, not only does she consider Chloe and Rylie’s immediate well-being in the case of the unexpected, including ensuring Rylie maintains access to mental health and behavior counseling needed for her medical diagnosis, but she also considers her two great-grandsons who may permanently join her household in the future.
When an electrical panel caught fire in Nancy’s home, she leaned on CAC of Belmont County to help her fill the gap in her homeowner’s insurance deductible. With a special funding source, the agency was able to help her meet the deductible so the repairs could be completed to keep the family in their home. Over the years, the agency also assisted with weatherization and replacement of old appliances, which reduced her monthly energy usage thereby reducing her energy costs, and connected Nancy with PIPP+ to lower her electric utility bills. Connections have also been made with local partners to assist with other repairs in the household to maintain a safe and decent home for Nancy and her grandchildren.
Grandparents may not anticipate once again becoming full-time caregivers for their grandchildren, though that doesn’t make them less capable of providing a loving and nurturing home. The means, however, may not come as easily. Community Action, along with partners and others, strives to provide the necessary services to help local people. And while growing statistics are alarming, every situation is as unique as the solutions.