Help for Raising Grandchildren
Many grandparents in the U.S. end up in a position they never expected to be in during
their golden years: raising their own grandchildren. If you are among them, your grandchildren
are lucky to have you.
Even though you’ve done it before, raising children the second time around may bring
up new challenges. Fortunately, state and federal programs are available to help you
and your grandfamily. Here are some resources to get you started.
Health insurance for your grandkids
One of your first concerns is making sure that your grandchild is covered by health
insurance. To make this process simpler, you should have legal custody or guardianship
of your grandchild. You often don’t need this to apply for such insurance. But it
will be easier for you later on if you have guardianship.
To get the process started, you can ask a lawyer, a healthcare provider, or a health
clinic what the rules are for your state. In some cases, you can simply sign a consent
form that says you are caring for the child. In other cases, the parents may need
to sign a form. Or you’ll need to prove that you made an effort to contact the parents.
You have several choices to help you if you can't afford a full-cost policy and your
employer will not cover your grandchild. The first is your state’s free or low-cost
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The rules for CHIP vary from state to
state. Talk with a local healthcare provider’s office or social worker to get more
In other cases, your grandchild might qualify for a federal Medicaid program. The
rules can vary from state to state. You’ll need to contact local agencies to see if
your grandchild can be covered. Both programs often insure children up to age 19.
This covers provider visits, medicine, and hospital visits.
To help, AARP has a Benefits QuickLink. On this page, you can answer a series of questions, learn what programs your grandchild
qualifies for, and get links to the forms that you need to fill out.
Nutrition assistance programs
Money can be tight when you have more mouths to feed. This is especially true if you
are retired. The federal Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) helps low-income
children ages 5 and younger with healthy, nutritious meals. You can find more details
on the WIC website. Your local schools, YMCA, and other organizations may also offer free or low-cost
breakfasts and lunches, even during the summer. Call your child’s school to learn
Other support for you and your grandkids
Financial support is a big help when caring for grandchildren. But it’s far from a
grandparent’s only concern. The federal government has a website devoted to grandparents raising grandchildren. On this page, you can find links to more questions about child-rearing, health and
safety, and other issues you might be facing.
The National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is based at Western Michigan
University. The center's website has more information about the organization, its regional affiliates, and other resources.