"I'm very proud that the
state of Illinois has been able to help this unique population for
the past decade," said Charles D. Johnson, department director. "The
Illinois Department on Aging will continue to assist these ‘silent
saviors' in the future."
Acknowledging the importance of relatives raising children, Gov.
Rod R. Blagojevich nearly doubled funding this year for the
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program in the Department on
Aging, approving an additional $200,000 over the fiscal 2006
allocation. The funding increase will allow the department to expand
assistance to the growing number of relatives who are unselfishly
accepting the responsibility of raising their family's children.
Created in 1996, the
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program offers numerous
services that may help during difficult times. The program provides
assistance with paying for emergency needs, utility bills,
medications, food and clothing. The program also offers referral
services to local resources, such as support groups and legal
"Here in Illinois, more than 100,000 grandparents are caring for
their grandchildren, while more than 200,000 children under the age
of 18 are living in a grandparent-headed home. With this additional
money, we can help them with a variety of issues that may suddenly
come up," Johnson said.
For example, a key issue that the program assists with is
enrolling children in school after they've been displaced. A
majority of schools in the state of Illinois require that a parent
or legal guardian register children for school, but in most cases
the children are displaced unexpectedly and the cost for a
grandparent to gain guardianship can be very expensive. In these
cases, program officials and the Illinois State Board of Education
work with the local school district to ensure the child's education
is not disrupted.
"Often, with compassion and great sacrifice, grandparents step
outside of the traditional role and selflessly raise their
grandchildren," said Barb Schwartz, the statewide coordinator for
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. "These individuals may have few
resources or family members for support, and we want them to know
that they are not alone and we are here to help."
[to top of second
Relatives who are raising children can also take advantage of
services provided through the Illinois Family Caregiver Support
Program, which include:
referrals to available services.
caregivers in gaining access to available services.
counseling, support groups and caregiver training.
Respite care to
enable caregivers to be temporarily relieved from their
services to complement the care provided by caregivers.
Supplemental services can include assistive devices; home
modifications; legal assistance; assistance with purchasing
prescription drugs, transportation and school supplies; and any
other gap-filling services, which attempt to address a
short-term caregiver emergency.
The program, along with the Illinois Task Force on Grandparents
Raising Grandchildren, also works to pass legislation to help
relatives overcome the challenges they may face. This year,
Blagojevich signed several pieces of legislation to help overcome
those obstacles, including:
House Bill 4357, which outlines grandparents' visitation
House Bill 4406, which provides a $1,000 grant to eligible
grandchildren, raised by their grandparents, who are enrolled
full-time at an institution of higher learning.
House Bill 4242, which allows Department of Children and
Family Services to place a child with a relative if the
department determines that the relative will be adequately able
to provide for the child's safety and welfare. The legislation
requires that the department will make reasonable efforts to
identify and locate relatives who are ready, willing and able to
care for the child.
For more information about the services and programs that the
Illinois Department on Aging provides to grandparents and other
relatives who are raising children, call the Senior HelpLine at
1-800-252-8966 or visit
Department on Aging news release]