Grandparents play central role in our lives

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, September 15, 2010

National Grandparents Day was September 12. This important holiday is designed to champion the issues of senior citizens and encourage younger generations to honor their grandparents and learn from their wisdom and life experiences.

I am very fortunate that I still have my maternal grandmother, Ruby Scites, who is 93 years old. I am the oldest of more than 50 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

My other grandparents have passed on, but they all have had a major influence in my life.

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Many grandparents are playing a greater role today in raising their grandchildren.

In cases where parents are, for whatever reason, unable to care for their children, it is often the grandparents who step up to the plate to look after them.

In fact, according to a March 2008 joint report from the AARP Foundation, The Brookdale Foundation Group, Casey Family Programs, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund and Generations United, there are nearly 157,300 children in Ohio living in grandparent-headed households. And, of those, 76,794 live there without either parent present.

No matter their love for their grandchildren or desire to care for them, taking on this responsibility can be very difficult both emotionally and financially for many grandparents.

The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio cites that almost one-fifth of all grandparents raising their grandchildren are living in poverty. Recognizing these unique challenges, Ohio established the Kinship Care Program to assist these caregivers with things like buying food, clothing, obtaining medical care or enrolling a child in school.

Kinship Care not only helps grandparents afford essential resources for raising a grandchild but works to ensure that children have the opportunity to stay in a stable, loving environment that will give them the best opportunity to grow, learn and succeed in the future.

Whether it is stepping in to help raise their grandchildren or volunteering at their local school or soup kitchen, Ohio’s senior citizens are tremendously committed to their families and communities.

Younger generations should not only learn from this example, but we must strive to show a similar commitment in caring for older Ohioans in need.

With this in mind, I fought to pass legislation last General Assembly to establish a statewide emergency alert system for senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s or Ohioans with other mental impairments.

The plan is modeled after the AMBER Alert system for missing children.

Grandparents are an essential thread in the fabric of our state. Many older Ohioans served our country in World War II and other conflicts, and then returned home to work and start a family.

Now, thousands of these dedicated men and women are helping to care for their grandchildren while continuing to contribute to the growth and success of our local communities.

In the spirit of Grandparents Day, I encourage younger Ohioans to spend time talking with their grandparents, learn from their example and thank them for all they have done to care for their families and make this state such a great place to live.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.