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February 2024Vol. 25, No. 1Report Highlights the Mental Health Needs and Challenges of Grandfamilies

More than 2.4 million children and youth in the United States live with grandfamilies—grandparents, relatives, or close family friends. A recent report from Generations United, Building Resilience: Supporting Grandfamilies’ Mental Health and Wellness, examines the mental health needs and challenges of these kin caregivers and the children in their care.

Grandfamilies often experience mental health challenges across generations. Children may experience mental health conditions stemming from trauma, abuse, or neglect. Caregivers’ mental health is affected by raising children who have experienced trauma, as well as issues related to child-rearing responsibilities, such as financial stress, food insecurity, or social isolation. Parents whose children are raised by grandfamilies also often experience mental health, behavioral, and substance use disorders.

Despite the prevalence of these issues, grandfamilies often face challenges accessing mental health services. This may be due to a lack of availability or legal authority, among other reasons. The report provides an overview of these challenges, including how mental health struggles have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, and the opioid epidemic.

The report features a series of recommendations for policymakers, including the following:

  • Increase access to affordable, quality, trauma-informed mental health treatment for youth and caregivers in grandfamilies.
  • Help grandfamilies meet their basic needs so they can prioritize mental health and wellness.  
  • Train health care, mental health, and educational providers on issues related to grandfamilies.
  • Increase access to quality and culturally appropriate services in schools.
  • Implement mental health outreach and communication strategies that are tailored to grandfamilies.
  • Encourage kinship navigator programs to coordinate services with mental health providers.
  • Collect national data on mental health indicators, including adverse childhood experiences, for children in grandfamilies.
  • Research the impact of chronic stress and community violence on grandfamilies’ mental health.
  • Encourage states to use opioid settlement funds to support grandfamilies mental health and wellness.

More information is available in the full report. A report overview, infographic, key facts and findings, press release, and more are also available on the Generations United website.