Press Release

COVID-19 Pandemic Heightens Grandfamilies’ Challenges and Inequities

First national survey of grandfamilies during the pandemic found nearly one-third have no backup plan for children if the caregiver dies or becomes disabled

(Washington, DC, September 29, 2020) — According to a report released today from Generations United, 30 percent of kin caregivers lack an alternative caregiving plan if they should die or become disabled — at a time when 2.7 million children in the United States live in grandfamilies.

The report, Facing a Pandemic: Grandfamilies Living Together During COVID-19 and Thriving Beyond, explains that nationwide, older adults are being cautioned to keep their distance from children because of the heightened risk of infection and death from COVID-19. But for grandfamilies — families in which grandparents, other adult family members, or close family friends are raising children — that distance is impossible.

“These kin caregivers are the first line of defense for children during the pandemic, having stepped in when parents cannot raise them for many reasons, including parents’ death from COVID-19,” said Ana Beltran, report author and special advisor to Generations United’s National Center on Grandfamilies.

While grandfamilies are diverse in geography, income, and race, the report found that caregivers in grandfamilies are disproportionally Black or Native American; nearly half of grandparent caregivers are over age 60; and 1 in 4 grandparent caregivers have a disability. These are the same populations that are more likely to be impacted by the pandemic and die as a result.

The report also found that of the more than 600 grandfamilies surveyed: 38 percent are unable to pay or worried about paying mortgage or rent, and 43 percent fear leaving their home for food. By caring for children, grandfamilies save taxpayers more than $4 billion each year.

“While we are all impacted by COVID-19, grandfamilies, especially, are being forced to reckon with unprecedented challenges and tough realities, and oftentimes with limited support systems in place,” said Jennie Day-Burget, senior communications officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which co-funded the report. “The pandemic is providing us with unique insights into how we can create more responsive policies and systems that will better support families of all origins both now and in the future.”

The report seeks to elevate the unique needs of grandfamilies heightened by the pandemic and includes recommendations for tribal, local, and state governments to build stronger systems of supports to help grandfamilies thrive during COVID-19 and beyond:

  • Deploy the use of COVID-19 response dollars with grandfamilies in mind;
  • Authentically engage kinship caregivers, birthparents, foster parents, and young people in the design and implementation of services that impact them; and
  • Invest in and increase the reach of kinship navigator programs to help grandfamilies connect to resources and supports.

Download the report.

Generations United experts available for comment include:

  • Donna Butts, Executive Director
  • Jaia Peterson Lent, Deputy Executive Director
  • Ana Beltran, Report Author, Special Advisor, National Center on Grandfamilies
    • Beltran can also do interviews in Spanish.


About Generations United:

For more than three decades, Generations United has been the catalyst for policies and practices stimulating cooperation and collaboration among generations, evoking the vibrancy, energy and sheer productivity that result when people of all ages come together. We believe that we can only be successful in the face of our complex future if generational diversity is regarded as a national asset and fully leveraged. The National Center on Grandfamilies is a critical part of Generations United’s mission and strives to enact policies and promote programs that support relative caregivers and the children they raise.