GRAND Magazine - January/February 2019 - 26

grandfamilies

Love without borders: grandfamilies and immigration

"

BY JAIA LENT

A

s a teenager, Juan escaped abuse
in his home in Guatemala and fled
to the United States. After being
detained at the border, he eventually found
himself in the loving care of his grandparents in Washington State. A lawyer at
NorthWest Immigrant Rights Project, an
organization in Washington state that helps
children released from the Office of Refugee
Resettlement, helped obtain "Special
Immigrant Juvenile Status" for him. Now
age 20, Juan has graduated high school and
plays guitar in a musical group. He credits
the love and direction of his grandparents
for guiding him on how to move forward.
Juan is among the more than 2.6 million
children being raised in the United States
by grandparents, other relatives and close
family friends with no parent in the household. These "grandfamilies" are families in
which relatives or close family friends step
up to raise children unexpectedly because their parents cannot.
With increased immigration enforcement and children being separated from their parents at the border, grandparents and other
relatives are stepping up to raise many of these children too. The
national data is compelling. Although we do not know how many
of these grandfamilies form as a result of a parent's detainment or
deportation, we do know that approximately 21 percent of the 2.6
million children in grandfamilies - or 544,000 children - are living in
immigrant grandfamilies, meaning the child, the parent(s), and/or
the kinship care provider(s) are foreign-born.

26 GRAND

JANUARY FEBRUARY 2019

"As Juan beautifully puts
it, 'My grandparents
taught me to live happy
and now every day is a
joy.'"

While the reasons grandfamilies come together differ, one thing
typically remains the same, children suffer loss and trauma from
being removed or separated from their parents. This loss can cause
irreparable harm to a child's development. Moreover, separation

"

"Finding a loving relative to care for
the children can buffer the effects of
the children's stress and reduce the
trauma of separation."

"

from a parent who is detained or deported
can compound a child's existing trauma,
which they may have as a result of living in a
dangerous and violent environment in their
home country or their long journey to the
U.S. When this, and all types of separation
happen, finding a loving relative to care for
the children can buffer the effects of the
children's stress and reduce the trauma of
separation. Decades of research repeatedly
confirms that children thrive in grandfamilies
when they have the support they need.

Click here to continue reading
Jaia Peterson Lent is Deputy Executive Director
of Generations United, a national organization
dedicated to improving lives. Home to the National
Center on Grandfamilies, Generations United is a
leading voice for issues affecting families headed
by grandparents or other relatives.


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GRAND Magazine - January/February 2019

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