SEATTLE - A rally on Thursday in the nation's capital will highlight the 2.5 million Americans who some call the nation's "silent safety net": grandparents who are raising their children's kids.
The number of families in that situation jumped by more than 5 percent in the first year of the Great Recession, says Jerry Wallace, executive director of the National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights
. As of 2010, nearly 8 million children nationwide are living with relatives other than parents. For one in three of them, Wallace says, a grandparent is their primary caregiver.
"Our families cannot wait. We have a whole segment of the population - unrecognized, underserved - that is doing the job that we would all do in their position. They need to get the help that they deserve."
Wallace will be among those addressing the rally. In the state of Washington, 123,000 children are in what the state refers to as "kinship care," and more than 40,000 grandparents are raising grandchildren.
Roughly 10 times as many children are in kinship care situations as in foster care, says Wallace. He believes the system shortchanges some of these families, in terms of benefits such as food stamps and school lunch programs.
"And now, you add a child to that family and you only get, really, a fractional stipend to pay for their nutrition. You're at a disadvantage. The system doesn't recognize the burden of bringing children into homes that have not anticipated that they'd become caregivers."
Wallace thinks programs such as Social Security should be strengthened and benefits extended to reach more children in the care of "grand-families."
Information on the rally is online at grandrally.org
. State statistics from AARP-Washington
are at aarp.us