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The High Cost of Caring: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

June 12, 2013

Policy Brief

Authors: D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto, MPH, Steven P. Wallace, PhD

​Grandparents over the age of 65 who are raising grandchildren are a small but extremely vulnerable population in California. These older adults usually become the primary caregivers of their grandchildren after an unexpected event. They are further faced with the financial challenge of having an additional dependent without additional income. This policy brief documents that the actual income needed to support a basic standard of living for older adults with grandchildren in California is about twice the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), depending on the county. Using 200% FPL as an approximate measure, about two-fifths of older grandparents who are responsible for their grandchildren in the state do not have enough income to make ends meet. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) for California calculates that the costs of housing, food, and the older adults' health care account for more than two-thirds of total household expenses for grandparents and the grandchildren they are raising. Despite the high cost of basic needs, public assistance for low-income older adults and children continues to be squeezed. If they are to efficiently serve members of this fragile population, the existing programs that serve them need to maximize and streamline their impact through better coordination and collaboration.

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