We’re quick to criticize government when we figure they’re spending our tax dollars recklessly.
But when they actually get it right, the kudos aren’t always so plentiful.
Well, last week they got it right and on behalf of every grandparent who’s ever had the privilege of looking after a grandchild or two, I’d like to say thanks.
Now, to be clear, my babysitting commitment is usually short-term – an hour or an afternoon on a weekend while their parents go shopping, or when they pull an extra shift at work.
But the reality for a growing number of Island grandparents is that they serve as the primary caregivers for their grandchildren.
For them, it’s not an hour or an afternoon – it’s 24/7 and, speaking from my limited experience with our five grandchildren, I can only imagine what a challenge that must be.
Especially if the household is running on the fixed income of a senior citizen.
Last week, nearly two years after the first motion of support passed in the provincial legislature, new benefits were finally announced for Island grandparents caring for children.
It wasn’t a huge expenditure - $700 a month with an annual cost of $400,000 – but for those who qualify for this assistance, it has to be a godsend.
It didn’t happen overnight.
Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy, then a backbencher, first brought the motion to the House in November of 2015. She urged her government to do more for grandparents who find themselves raising the children as the result of a parent’s death, struggle with addiction or other factors.
Often, she told fellow MLAs, the grandparents have their own challenges, from heart disease to physical disabilities “and throw in the financial burden and it’s a hard go for a lot of them.”
She was right then and she was still right nearly two years later when, as minister, she announced relief was finally on the way.
In between, there was a second motion supported by all parties last spring to implement as assistance program for grandparents raising their grandchildren.
Early next month, the Grandparents and Care Providers program will offer $700 per month per child to families providing out-of-home care for children. It will help with daily living costs, clothing and transportation.
This is money well spent if it helps ease the financial strain on grandparents who take the children in because they love them, only to find the financial strain overwhelming.
If a child, for whatever reason, cannot be with his or her parents, foster homes may be an option but grandparents are usually the best fit. Government statistics show 54 Island children are now living in 47 homes with family members or someone close to them. Thirty-nine of those homes are lead by grandparents.
I’m probably biased but I’d like to think that in the absence of mom and dad, grandma and grandpa would be in the best position to provide a safe and loving home – provided they’re physically and financially able.
I applaud those who take on this challenge and government that has stepped up to financially support them.
It will pay dividends right away for grandparents and the children in their charge and, in the long-term, for society as well adjusted young men and women emerge from these homes – a grand investment.
- Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.