Get the Facts: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in Illinois

Did you know? According to the Illinois Department on Aging, over 200,000 children under the age of 18 are living in a grandparent-headed home in Illinois. More than 100,000 grandparents are caring for their grandchildren right now across the state.

The number of Illinois families in this situation has dramatically increased over the past 25 years. Many factors have contributed to this growing trend, including: unemployment/poverty, divorce, alcohol and drug abuse, death of a parent, parental incarceration and teen pregnancy, to name just a few.

The circumstances and pressures borne by these grandparents are as diverse as Illinois itself. Over two-thirds of grandparents who have taken on the responsibility of raising a grandchild are still of working age. Of those who were retired or semi-retired; many had to rejoin the workforce in order to support the added responsibilities of providing for their grandchild.

These grandparents run the gamut from married, widowed, divorced, and single. 47% are Caucasian, 36% are African-American, and over 25% are Latino (source: Illinois Department on Aging). They face challenges in providing adequate housing for themselves and their grandchildren, legal challenges surrounding custody/guardianship issues, as well as the challenge of providing for their own physical and emotional health.

The grandchildren in these families face their own struggles, depending on the circumstances. Some experience emotional and behavior problems stemming from feelings of abandonment; others suffer from health conditions as a result of prenatal drug or alcohol exposure, and still others came from a home in which they were the victims of physical or sexual abuse.

The Illinois Department on Aging, in cooperation with the Illinois Task Force on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, works to locate, assist and promote awareness of older caregivers who are currently raising their family's children.

The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program began in 1996 with a grant from the Brookdale Foundation. Additional legislative support has allowed the Department to expand the program, by:

Establishing support groups and providing them with financial and technical assistance;
Providing grandparents with information and referral assistance; and
Training professionals and facilitators to meet grandparents needs.

Grandparents and older relatives over the age of 55 raising grandchildren/children are also eligible for services under the Illinois Family Caregiver Support Program.

More information is available through your local Area Agency on Aging, Caregiver Resource Center, the Senior HelpLine at 800-252-8966 or contact your legislator.