Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Story by Shruti J. Vaidya
Photos by Dipti Vaidya
research has revealed a diverse range of kinship families in Michigan
and a community-based
resource center is setting new directions for policy and programs.
Kinship Care Resources
like every day at 3 p.m., Ruth Cheeney waits in her small ranch
house in Lansing for her husband Warren to bring their three girls
home from elementary school. She has decided to make crisped rice
treats for their snack, a favorite after-school activity with the
twins, Amber and Amanda (12) and, Michelle (10), before they rush
off to swim, do homework or play with friends.
very ordinary afternoon activities are taking place in an extraordinary
household—one in which this 60-year-old grandmother and 62-year-old
grandfather have taken on the responsibility of raising their three
granddaughters. At an age when they planned to retire from their
long-time jobs at a local bakery, perhaps travel to Florida, the
Cheeneys are now supporting and raising three girls— each
of whom suffered varying degrees of abuse from their father before
the grandparents stepped in to protect them.
The Cheeneys are not alone. They are among a growing number of grandparent
and relative caregivers across the nation who are raising children
separated from their parents due to abuse, neglect or other crises.
The Census Bureau reported 2.4 million grandparent maintained households
in 1997, reflecting a 19% increase from 1990. In spite of this substantial
growth and the implications that kinship care has for the foster
care system and child welfare policy, little has been understood
about the diverse range of kinship care families, the challenges
they face, and their access to public and private resources as they
raise children a second time around.
To fill this gap, Michigan State University research is documenting
the diversity of kinship care situations in mid-Michigan and discovering
that these families face a host of legal, financial, emotional and
health challenges. This information about kinship families’
needs has in turn laid the foundation for a statewide
community-based resource center staffed by grandparents and
MSU social work students which is setting new directions for policy
and programs. Driven by community needs from its inception, the
initial pilot study has now grown into a long-term kinship care
project--building the scholarship and knowledge base about kinship
care in Michigan and procuring large grants for research, programs
“Research, practice and policy are inextricably tied,”
says Teresa Jones, director of the MSU
Kinship Care Project and associate professor in MSU’s
School of Social Work, “For kinship care programs and
policies to be effective, the research needs to be in place. To
know what methods are most effective, what is best practice, we
needed to learn about these families and their experiences in kinship
J. Vaidya is Communications Director for the MSU
FACT Coalition and Editor of Connect.
the full feature story, please see page 16 in MSU
School of Social Work
Kinship Care Resource Center
MSU Kinship Care Project
The MSU Kinship Care Resource Center is a tangible outcome
of the Kinship Care Project, which is dedicated to exploring
the experiences and needs of kinship care providers, as well
as the policy issues involved with kinship care in Michigan.
more information, call their toll-free hotline: (800) 535-1218
Grandparent Information Center
Ken, and Lynn M. Casper. Coresident Grandparents and Grandchildren.
U.S. Census Bureau, May 1999.
Welfare League of America list of programs
Crumbley, Joseph, and Robert L. Little, eds. Relatives Raising
Children: An Overview of Kinship Care. Child Welfare League
of America, 1997.
United (GU) National Center on Grandparents and Other Relatives
James P., and Creasie Finney Hairston, eds. Kinship Care:
Improving Practice Through Research. Child Welfare League
of America, 1999.
Care Project Overview. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University
School of Social Work, 2000.
Care Roundtable Series Monographs. East Lansing, MI: Michigan
State University School of Social Work, 2000
Robert. State of Michigan Kinship Care: Exploring Policy Challenges
and Options. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University School
of Social Work, March 2000.
Department of Health and Human Services. On Their Own Terms:
Supporting Kinship Care Outside of TANF and Foster Care. 2001.
Department of Health and Human Services. Report to the Congress
on Kinship Foster Care. 2000.
Welfare Information Network - Links to Kinship Care Publications