In the United States, around 2.7 million children are being raised by their grandparents, other relatives, or close family friends without their parents in the home. This statistic, highlighted by Ana Beltran, Director of the National Technical Assistance Center on Grandfamilies and Kinship Families, underscores the vital role that grandparents play in providing stability and care for their grandchildren, especially those with disabilities.

The Importance of Kinship Care

Decades of research affirm that children thrive in the care of their kin when their parents cannot raise them. Federal, state, and tribal laws often favor placing children with relatives to ensure a supportive and familiar environment. However, grandparents often face challenges in accessing necessary services due to a lack of automatic legal relationships with their grandchildren. This issue becomes even more critical when the grandchildren have disabilities.

Navigating Legal and Educational Hurdles

To ensure their grandchildren receive the best possible care and education, grandparents should consider gaining some form of legal authority. While federal law does not require legal documentation for grandparents to be involved in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process, having legal authority can prevent significant obstacles.

Resources for Legal and Educational Support:

  • Offers guides and resources tailored to grandparents raising children with disabilities. Visit
  • U.S. Department of Education: Provides a wealth of information on children’s education, including resources for special needs and disabilities. Visit the U.S. Department of Education.

Roles and Responsibilities

Grandparents may find themselves in two primary roles:

  1. Traditional Role: Providing concrete support to the child’s parents, acting as a vital source of stability.
  2. Primary Caregiver Role: Taking on full responsibility for the child’s upbringing, which involves navigating multiple systems of care and managing the associated stress and challenges.

Support and Resources

Recognizing the isolation and challenges grandparents face, several organizations offer valuable resources:

  • Care 4 the Caregivers: Created by caregivers, for caregivers, this organization provides resources, support groups, and programs to help families thrive. Visit Care 4 the Caregivers.
  • Franklin County Area on Aging: Offers expense reimbursements and monthly caregiver support groups based on household income. Visit Franklin County Area on Aging.
  • KinConnector Helpline: This program helps families locate and access various resources, including health, financial, and legal services. Visit KinConnector.
  • Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP): Penn State’s statewide program provides educational workshops and retreats for grandfamilies. Learn more about RAPP.

Final Thoughts

Raising a grandchild with a disability can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s essential to stay informed and connected to resources that can provide the necessary support. For more detailed information and weekly updates on a variety of topics, visit our Linktree.

Stay Empowered, Stay Informed

At Kidz Therapy Zone, we are committed to supporting grandparents in their unique journey of raising grandchildren with special needs. By leveraging available resources and staying connected, you can create a nurturing and stable environment for your grandchildren.

For more information on this topic and many other valuable resources, visit our Linktree. We update it weekly with new topics to support you on your caregiving journey.