In 1978, Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. Presidents since Jimmy Carter have issued proclamations urging citizens to, in the words of President Barack Obama, "honor those who have helped shape the character of our nation, and thank these role models for their immeasurable acts of love, care and understanding."
At a stage in life when many people are already comfortably retired, some 2.7 million grandparents have taken on the responsibility of providing basic needs for their grandchildren, according to data compiled by Generations United. An alarming 21 percent of these vital caregivers live below the poverty line, even though 60 percent are still in the workforce.
All told, an estimated 7.8 million children under 18 live in households headed by grandparents or other relatives, including those whose parents are absent due to death, substance abuse, military deployment or other reasons.
Ironically, even though many of these "grandfamilies" barely scrape by, they save taxpayers more than $6.5 billion each year by keeping children out of the foster care system. So it only seems fair that many federal, state and local aid programs are available to help these guardian angels provide financial and emotional safety nets for their grandchildren.
Among the many difficulties these families sometimes face:
However, grandfamilies may be eligible for several federal tax credits:
In addition, depending on your income and the health/disability status of your grandchildren, you may also be eligible for benefits from Medicaid, your state's Children's Health Insurance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and numerous other federal, state and local aid programs.
Helpful resources for grandfamilies include:
Do something to honor your own grandparents this Grandparents Day. And if you know others who are raising their grandkids, make sure they know about the many available resources.
Jason Alderman directs Visa's financial education programs. To Follow Jason Alderman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.