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Raising Grandchildren: Health

Updated: May 25, 2021

What you should know to ensure your grandkids' physical and mental well-being?

Do I need legal papers to get medical care for my grandchildren?

If you do not have legal guardianship or custody of your grandchildren, you may have trouble getting medical or dental care for them.

the law about "medical consent" vary from state to state. Ask your doctor, clinic or a lawyer what the rules are in the state. Or you can check the GrandFacts(http://www. state fact sheets to see what medical consent laws may apply. Sometimes you can sign a legal affidavit saying you.

As a grandparent caring for a grandchild , you may have to deal with health issues. This information will help you.

Parents can sign a special form or if you are unable to find the parents before you can make medical decisions for a child.

How can I get health insurance for my Grandchildren?

If your grandchildren don't have health insurance, find out if your employer will allow you to add them to your policy. If not, find out if they qualify for your state's free or low cost Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or the federal Medicaid program. Both of these programs vary from state to state, but most insure children and teens up to age 19 for health care, medicines and hospital visits. The Early Periodic Diagnosis, Screening an Treatment. (EPDST) Program is part of Medicaid, and offers well-baby visits with normal screening, tests and treatments that children would get if they went to a doctor for regular visits.

In most states you do not need to have legal guardianship of your grandchildren to apply for health insurance for them. But, a few states will count your income when they went to the doctor for regular visits.

In most states you do not need to have legal guardianship of your grandchildren to apply for health insurance for them. But, a few states will count your income when they decide if your grandchildren qualify. To find out it your grandchildren may be eligible for CHIP or Medicaid and apply you can:

*Go to Benefits QuicLINK ( and answer a list of questions. You'll get a report that tells you what programs the child is eligible for, and links to the forms to apply. If you can't get to a computer, call (888)grand-18 and ask for a referral to someone who can help you with a Benefits QuickLINK screening.

*Talk with a local social worker, clinic or doctors office to ask about applying for CHIP or Medicaid.

*Visit the Insure Kids Now ( website or call toll free at (877) KIDS-NOW for more information and links to your state CHIP and Medicaid programs.

What if I can't afford nutritious, well balanced meals for my grandchildren?

The special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, infants and Children (WIC)

Program helps women, infants and children up to age 5 who have low incomes and may not be able to eat well. The program has food, health care referrals, and nutrition education for pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women. Contact your state or local WIC agency ( to apply for help. WIC may also help if you have a daughter or granddaughter who is pregnant.

The federal government has many programs to help with the nutrition needs of children and families with lower incomes, including the food stamp program, school meal program, summer food service program, child and adult care food program, and food distribution programs. Talk with your local social service agency about the other nutrition programs. You can also visit to find out more about these programs.

How can I help my grandchildren with behavioral and mental health issues?

Many children being raised by relatives have been through a lot if stress. Your grandchildren may have been abused or neglected. If their parents have mental health issues, they may be more likely to have the same or similar problems as well.

Ask your grandchildren's social worker or school counselor if they can offer therapy or counseling for them. Also talk to your pediatrician about any mental health issues as well, and see if there are any psychological tests your grandchildren should get. Medication is sometimes prescribed for certain mental health disorders. Be sure to find out if your grandchildren qualify for any public benefits to help with medical or mental health care or information on finding public benefits.

Raising Grandchildren: Education

How to choose the right learning environment for your grandkids.

Your grandchild's education is vital to his future success. Even before he is ready to begin formal school, he needs to be in an environment that offers a positive, caring place for him to learn. Here's what you need to know:

*In-home care is ideal for infants or for a few hours a day. You hire someone to come to your home to care for your child.

*Family day care is offered in someone's home. Usually this includes fun activities for your grandchild, such as story times, outdoor play, crafts, naptime and more. In some states family day care has to be licensed by the state.

*Preschool or child care centers usually have more structure and learning activities to help young children get ready for school, learn social skills and develop physically. Some of these programs may have a reduced price for families with low incomes.

*Head Start and Early Head Start offers child development to families with low incomes with special focus on helping preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need when they start school. Early Head Start serves children from birth to age 3. Both programs help with education , health, nutrition and social services for children in the program, and involve grandparent caregivers in their grandchild's learning.

How can I find child care programs?

*There are child care resource and referral agencies in most areas. They provide referrals to local child care providers, as well as information on state licensing requirements and on child care subsidies to help pay for child care. Child Care Aware is a program of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) that helps you find a child care resource and referral agency in your area. Call toll free (800)424-22469 or go to ( .

*Search the National Association for the Education of Young Children

( (NAEYC) website for accredited programs in your area

*Visit the Start or Early Head Start Program

Can I get financial assistance for child care?

Every state has a child care subsidy program that helps pay for child care for families with lower incomes who meet the rules for eligibility. You will need to contact your state or local child care government office and fill out a form. The income, work, age of the child and other requirements vary from state to state, so you'll need to find out what the rules are in your state.

What do I need to know about enrolling my grandchildren in school?

If at all possible, it's a best to keep your grandchildren in the same school they've been in. (The fewer transitions they have to deal with, the better.) But if you do have to move your grandchildren to a new school, you may have trouble getting them enrolled in some states if you do not have legal custody or guardianship. There are "education consent" laws that make it easier to enroll children in school - but not every state has one. Ask your school or Family Law Lawyer what the laws are in your state, or check the GRANDFACTS state fact sheets ( for your state to see if there is an education consent law. Sometimes you can sign a legal paper saying you are caring for the child, or a parent can sign a special form. if you are unable to reach parents, you may need to prove that you have tried to find them.

I can't afford to pay for lunches; where can I apply for assistance?

The National School Lunch Program is a meal program in public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides healthy low cost or free lunches each school day to children whose families have lower incomes. There is also a school breakfast program. Ask your grandchild's teacher or social worker about these programs.

Raising Grandchildren: Family Issues

Find help for grandkids battling emotional challenges.

When grandparents or other relatives step in to care for children, there is usually a family crisis or chronic problem. It can be a challenge to juggle raising children while dealing with family challenges.

It is up to set boundaries to provide stability for your grandchild. Many children want to spend time with their parents, but end up feeling let down if their parents are erratic and unreliable. If life isn't stable, your grandchildren may be confused and feel badly about themselves. Sometimes this can cause behavior problems or mental health issues for your grandchildren.

*It might be helpful to ask an objective third party to help you work out a schedule for visits with the parents, along with rules and responsibilities. Try to be flexible but have clear limits or boundaries. Work together to do what's best for your grandchildren; their needs are top priority. A trained mediator can help, or a trained faith professional, counselor or family friend.

*If you go to court for custody or guardianship, you can ask the court to set up a regular schedule for when and where your grandchildren's parents can spend time with them (visitation). Sometimes the court says parents can "only" have supervised" visitation. which their parents - even if it is rocky at times.

My Grandchildren's parents are addicted to alcohol and drugs; is there help for our family?

Abuse of or addiction to alcohol or other drugs(substance abuse) is often called a "family disease" because it affects the whole family. Substance abuse can lead to many other problems, including child abuse and neglect, incarceration(being in jail), and even the death parent. There are many emotions and conflicts when a family member is addicted. You can't control the parent's behavior, but you can do your best to have limits and give your grandchildren security.

You might want to join a support group for people who have family members or friends who are substance abusers, such as Al-Non Family Groups. The confidential meetings help you learn how to cope and be healthy yourself.

*Al-Anon also has groups for children whose parents are substance abusers called "Alateen ", and "Alatot" for children.

*You might also want to get personal counseling from a therapist who can help you and your grandchildren learn how to cope with substance abuse in the family.

The Children of Alcoholics Foundation ( (COAF) also has resources on their website to help relatives raising children of parents who are addicted.

My grandchildren's parents are in jail - should I help my grandkids stay in touch?

When a family member is in jail or prison, it is a loss for everyone. It might be good for the children to have some contact with their parents, but it's not a good idea to force them to visit, call or write. If all contact with the parent is cut off, the child may have more feelings of grief or loss. Some prisons have social services, chaplains or visitor services that can help you plan visits and learn about the best ways to have contact with the prisoner. There are some special programs to help parents in jail stay in contact with their children. You will want to have a regular schedule so the child knows what to expect if they do visit.

How can I help my grandchildren when their parent has died?

It may be difficult to console your grandchild after such a huge loss - and you are grieving too.

Allow everyone in the family to feel sad and take time to grieve in their own way. Some children may withdraw and be quiet. Others may act out and have bad behaviors. The most important thing you can do is be stable and give your grandchild a sense of security and love. These steps mat be helpful:

* Be sure to tell your grandchildren's teacher what has happened.

*Ask a mental health worker or the school social worker or counselor about private counseling for my family.

*Find out if there are grief support groups for adults and/or children in your area.

How can I keep the peace with other members in my family?

When you step in to raise someone else's children, it's bound to change many relationships in your family. Marriages often suffer. Other grandchildren don't understand why you buy things for the children you are raising or spend more time with them. It's very important that you keep communication open among all family members.

*Talk, share concerns and explain what is happening and why with your relatives.

*Set aside special time to enjoy your other grandchildren, whom you are not raising.

*Try to keep up with your normal family routines, rituals, celebrations and holidays.

How can I prevent my Grandchildren from "following in their parents' footsteps"?

Remember that everyone is a unique person. Just because your adult child has problems, doesn't mean that you did too, or that your grandchildren will.

*Make sure your grandchildren have honest and open communication, security, stability and a loving home.

*Talk with your grandchildren about what has caused problems for theirs parents.

*Get them involved in drug/alcohol prevention activities.

*Teach them how to manage money.

*Teach them to have short-term and long-term goals.

*Let them know that people we love sometimes do things we don't like, often because they are sick, not because they are bad people.

*Focus on the positive. Support and encourage your grandchildren and give them hope.

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