Caring for Their Children's Children
Assessing the Mental Health Needs and Service Experiences of Grandparent Caregiver Families
This report explores the need for and barriers to the use of mental health services among grandparent-caregiver families.
This report combines data from interviews with grandparents and a survey of social service providers to explore the need for and barriers to the use of mental health services among grandparent-caregiver families. More than 100,000 Illinois grandparents have primary responsibility for their grandchildren who are living with them, according to 2000 Census data. Focusing on two target geographic areas in Illinois, this report provides a rich portrait of these caregivers' experiences that draws on a family perspective and highlights a number of service-utilization issues. The interviews revealed that absent parents play an ongoing and under-recognized role in the well-being of grandparents and grandchildren, regardless of whether they are a consistent, sporadic, or rare presence in the home. With respect to mental health needs, one-third of grandparents reported symptoms of depression themselves, and two-thirds were caring for grandchildren whom they identified as having emotional or behavioral problems. However, half of the families had no involvement with a child welfare agency, and fewer than a third of the grandchildren and only a handful of the grandmothers were currently receiving mental health services. The unmet mental health needs of both grandparents and their grandchildren are discussed as well as the implications of these findings for practitioners and advocates interested in meeting the service needs of grandparent-caregiver families.