Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development


Sandra L. Caron

Second Committee Member

Gary Schilmoeller

Third Committee Member

Roberta Downey


In the United States, 2.4 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Over 6% of all children in the U.S. live in the home of their grandparents. In Maine 5,074 grandparents are raising one or more of their grandchildren (Census, 2000). These grandparents play key roles in families who are struggling with substance abuse, mental illness, child abuse and neglect. This study examines the challenges and rewards for caregiving grandparents, explores their needs, and looks at their concerns for the future. The data was collected by the Bangor, Maine based Family Connections (a project of Families & Children Together, Inc. and Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine, Inc.), who with a grant from Eastern Agency on Aging undertook a telephone survey to assess the needs of Maine grandparents and older relative caregivers between November 2002 and March 2003. The responses from 63 subjects are reviewed for similarities and differences based on the age of the caregiver and whether they provide care alone or with a partner. The caregivers range in age from 40 to 78, and 22% are single caregivers while 78% are raising their grandchildren with the help of another adult. Challenges frequently cited by caregivers of from all groups are the behaviorallmental health needs of their grandchild and educational issues. Almost 70% of the grandparents indicate that their grandchild is having a hard time and almost half said they feel unsure about managing their behavior. Older and single grandparents report more emotional concerns while older and co-parenting grandparents indicate more concem with behavior management. Approximately 60% of all the grandparents say that paying for their grandchild's needs is a financial burden, and this is particularly true for middle-aged and single caregivers. When asked about the positive aspects of caregiving, grandparents often respond: the joy (or love) the child brings to their lives; this is particularly true for older and single caregivers. Other rewards include: knowing that the child is safe and keeping the grandparents young and active The majority of grandparents rate respite as an important resource for caregivers. Most caregivers (92%) are able to identify at least one source of emotional support, but only 6%, (and none of the single or older grandparents) in this study, include support groups as sources of this support. However, when asked if it would be helpful to have contact with other relative caregivers, 94% of those interviewed said "yes." Most of the grandparents expect their grandchildren to live with them until they are adults. Their concerns for the future include: health issues of caregivers, concem about who will provide future care, education, financial issues, and concerns about managing the teen years.