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Conference Sponsor

Generations United

Abstract/ Summary

Maine is experiencing an increasing rate of children being raised by their grandparents or other relatives. The common reasons these individuals have taken on the responsibility of surrogate parenting, when the biological parents are unwilling or unable to do so include drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse and neglect, mental health problems, illness and death, incarceration and family violence. Under the vast majority of circumstances, relatives take responsibility for these children instead of the State Child Protective Services; this saves the State money but can be very burdensome to the family. Though relatives welcome the children, they often face unexpected lifestyle changes. The challenges they face can be physically, emotionally, and financially overwhelming, compromising their capacity to provide unconditional love, build trust, and serve as strong adult role models. It is in the interest of Maine’s children and families to support relatives in assuming this responsibility. These caregivers - often called kinship caregivers - take on this responsibility because they want to keep their families together; they love their grandchildren and want to keep them healthy and safe. The availability of responsive policies and programs have the capacity to alleviate stress and improve health and also help reduce the sense of isolation often felt by older adults raising children. During 2002-2003, the University of Maine Center on Aging, with a grant from Generations United, sponsored the Relatives as Parents Project Task Force to develop recommendations on how Maine can better support families in relative-headed households. Three subcommittees grew out of Maine’s RAPP Task Force and the recommendations presented here reflect the work of those three groups. The foci of these subcommittees were: financial security, community resources, and mental health and substance abuse issues.


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