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Grand-Families Increase Nearly Threefold in 30 Years

The latest census shows that more than 16 percent of American children live with a grandparent with no parent present, compared with 5 percent in 1990. (
The latest census shows that more than 16 percent of American children live with a grandparent with no parent present, compared with 5 percent in 1990. (
January 8, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. — Most grandparents look forward to an afternoon or weekend with their grandchildren. But a growing number are now raising their grandchildren because their own children are living on the streets or are addicted to drugs.

Nationwide, New Hampshire has one of the higher rates of opioid-related deaths due to overdose, which is contributing to grandparent-led families. Susan Allen-Samuel, community educator and outreach specialist with the National Alliance on Mental Illness New Hampshire, served on a state commission that looked at how grandparents can be helped. She said many are nearing retirement age and are now coping with the stress of rearing young children.

"We've got a whole generation of people that are not even connecting with their own peers because they've got little kids in the house now,” Allen-Samuel said. “And they've not only got their grandchildren, but those are traumatized children that are separated somehow and maybe back and forth from their parents."

It's estimated there are at least 10,000 New Hampshire grandparents raising their grandchildren - and 60 percent are still in the workforce. Some grandparents have the financial means to meet the needs of grandchildren joining the household. But, Allen-Samuel said others do not, and still others are spending their retirement savings.

She said she would like to see statewide programs expanded that would help grandparents care for their grandchildren.

"Support groups that help grandparents deal with the emotional impact of it, and help them better understand the application process,” she said; “you know, food stamps, medical, all those things that keep a roof over everybody's head, keep the children healthy and fed."

Nearly 9 percent of grandparents raising grandchildren in New Hampshire are living in poverty, and nearly 30 percent have a disability. Samuel-Allen said the new communal living arrangements hearken back to earlier generations, but now it's more of a necessity than a choice.

"It was a communal thing. And I think there's a lot more of that happening again, but for very different reasons,” she said; “because those adult children are not present, and I think that's the difference."

The state commission assigned to address the issue is currently preparing a resource guide for grand-families. More information is available at

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NH