September 9th is Grandparents Day in Canada. There are many reasons to celebrate all that grandparents do and mean in our lives.
However, there are some grandparents who remain both invisible and unrecognized and they
deserve our collective applause and appreciation.
In B.C., there are more children being raised by their grandparents than are in foster care. Census data cant give us exact numbers but we know more than 10,000 children in B.C. are kept out of foster care and being raised full time by their grandparents (or other relatives). Hundreds of thousands of dollars are saved by the province each year due to the dedication of these
grandparents. They take on this responsibility out of love for their grandchildren and to give them the permanency and family home children need and deserve. It is hard and often exhausting work.
Sadly, the government has moved away from supporting grandparent-lead families financially. While far from perfect social policy, the Child in Home of Relative program (CIHR) made a
significant difference for the children. It managed to keep many families together and protect them from hardship; it was cost effective and the benefits were beyond measure.
The cancellation of this program in March 31, 2010 has been nothing short of devastating. Something like CIHR, but much better, needs to be put in place.
The Extended Family Program (EFP), implemented March 31, 2010 as an additional support for relative led families, is temporary and focuses on the least vulnerable families - families where the parents can step back up to the parenting plate in less than two years. The vast majority of
grandparents who are raising grandchildren have legal guardianship of the children and as a result, are ineligible for this funding. While many families are able to save for a rainy day, few families find themselves financially prepared for the years of unexpected child-rearing as
they head into retirement and beyond.
Supporting grandparent-lead families is a wise and affordable investment. Now is the time to really put these families first and to celebrate all that they do for children and our communities across the province this Grandparents Day.
Happy Grandparents Day to grandparents everywhere!
Carol Ross, Executive Director
Parent Support Services Society of B.C.