Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in NM

Summary of a Larger Research Report 

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in New Mexico: Understanding the Trend & Stemming the Tide by Anne Hays Egan with the Con Alma Health Foundation

The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in New Mexico: Understanding the Trend & Stemming the Tide, baseline report by Anne Hays Egan with John W. Egan,  offers a guide for understanding the causes and issues behind the growing trend of grandparents raising grandchildren in New Mexico and how stakeholders, including the families affected, can advocate for and best support this population. New Mexico has a long history of grandparents and extended family members raising grandchildren, a very positive aspect of family tradition. What is new is that grandparents have become a broader “safety net” and are increasingly in the position to assume primary care of grandchildren due to birth parents who are unavailable or unwilling to raise their children for a numbers of factors described in the following Key Findings and Recommendations. This is a critical issue with consequences for New Mexican families, communities, and government.

Key Findings

  1. The number of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) continues to increase in New Mexico, as well as nationally.
  2. Parental involvement is dwindling (Skipped Generation Families).
  3. More households with three, even four generations are living under one roof (Three Generation Families, or Extended Family Grandfamilies).
  4. Grandfamilies are disproportionately high among Hispanics, or Latinos, and Native Americans in New Mexico, with Hispanics making up 53% of NM’s GRGs; and Native Americans (who are 9% of NM’s population), making up 20% of GRG.
  5. Many Grandfamilies are living at or below the poverty level.
  6. Mixed immigration status families are at higher risk for facing challenges.
  7. Native American Grandfamilies have unique challenges in that they must navigate two legal systems.
  8. Root causes of GRG nationally and statewide include historical trauma caused by slavery, genocide, colonization, systematic oppression, and racism that continues to affect economic, educational, social, and familial structure.
  9. Birth parents who are unable or unwilling to care for their children is caused by a number of factors, including: poverty; young mothers/parents who themselves need parental care; substance abuse, including opioid addiction; incarceration; divorce; working multiple jobs or travelling long distances for work; job loss; military deployment; behavioral health issues; and domestic violence.
  10. Ongoing substance abuse is one of the biggest causes of GRG, and research indicates there will be ever increasing numbers of grandparents caring for grandchildren until substance abuse is systemically addressed and lasting improvements made.
  11. US and state policies make it difficult for GRG with policies such as deportation, the War on Drugs, “Three Strikes” laws, as well as challenges navigating the schools and health care systems, a d difficulties accessing benefits to which birth parents are entitled – but not GRG.
  12. Kinship care outside of foster care saves the US government about $4 billion a year; some of these cost savings should be reinvested to help address this issue.
  13. In 2015, 26,241 grandparents in NM were responsible for grandchildren living with them. 60.5% were under the age of 60; 57% are in the workforce; 21.7% live in poverty; 25.1% have a disability; 28.9% are unmarried.
  14. Most GRG are in their late 30s to 50s and 60s, and still working. This issue is also causing older grandparents of retirement age to work, or go back to work, staying at work well into their 70s.
  15. Skipped Generation Grandfamilies have significantly higher rates of poverty, as well as risks and burdens, than do Extended Family Grandfamilies with parents present.

Recommendations for Moving Forward

  1. Further identify the correlations specifically between those Grandfamilies at greatest risk and health disparities they share in common, which are fuelled by root causes, Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), and health risk behaviors.
  2. Require a concerted systemic action through a combination of policy, advocacy, and shifts in funding over decades in order to address root causes which represent deeply embedded issues.
  3. Connect this work with other policy work being done related to health disparities in New Mexico and in other states.
  4. Analyze and address the primary SDOH factors that are most strongly correlated with health disparities (poverty, race and ethnicity, education); develop partnerships with policy initiatives related to (a) economic development and wage equity; (b) racial and ethnic justice and parity; (c) educational equity and opportunity. Root causes should be analyzed separately to identify key cornerstone issues, models of excellence, and policies that move populations toward equity (as well as reduce health disparities).
  5. Identify the primary health behaviors in New Mexico that are contributing to the growth of Skipped Generation Families, which create greater life challenges. Some of these include: (a) behavioral health risks; (b) school dropout rates; (c) young single parent mothers, including teens; (d) criminogenic factors that lead to multiple incarcerations;
Con Alma Health Foundation thanks the report’s principal researcher and consultant, Anne Hays Egan, New Ventures Consulting and John W. Egan; Con Alma’s Community Advisory Committee; Tom Scharmen, NewMexico Community Data Collaborative; and the key informants and report reviewers. Special thanks to Delfinia Romero, Patty Shure, and Rex Davidson at Las Cumbres Community Services for its sponsorship of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program.
This Summary is an edited version of a summary of the full research report, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in New Mexico: Understanding the Trend & Stemming the Tide, by Anne Hays Egan, principal researcher. It was developed by the Con Alma Health Foundation Executive Director, Dolores M. Roybal, with CAHF staff, and consultant, Anne Hays Egan, as a summary handout to be used with the NM State Conference on Aging, and for other handouts pending the dissemination of the full report. This article is a slightly edited version of the handout Summary Report.
Find more information about GRG and aging on Con Alma Health Foundation’s website:  www.conalma.org.
September 29, 2017