WASHINGTON -- More grandparents than ever are raising their grandchildren, and a significant number of them are living in poverty, the Census Bureau said in a report released yesterday.
About 19 percent of grandparent caregivers lived below the poverty line in 1999, compared with 14 percent of all families living with children.
The report, culled from 2000 census data, found that about one-third of the 2.4 million grandparents who are primary caregivers to their grandchildren lived in a home without the child's parents.
In many cases, it's because one or both parents are in jail or on drugs, say advocacy groups who urged Congress to provide more help. They noted several bills are pending aimed at helping care-giving grandparents with basic costs and housing, though the full House and Senate have yet to vote on the measures.
"Those that need financial support deserve financial support to keep their families together, and that's something that policy makers have not dealt with yet," said Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, which advocates for families in which elderly and young people live together.
One of the greatest needs is more outreach centers, which could help these families find legal, financial, medical, and social services, said Jim Parkel, president of AARP, the nation's largest organization for older Americans.
Congress first took interest in the plight of grandparents as caregivers while reforming the nation's welfare system in 1996, but because little government data existed on the issue, lawmakers ordered the Census Bureau to ask about it in 2000.
In Massachusetts, 98,325 grandparents were living with grandchildren in 2000, and 28 percent said they were the primary caregivers.