Through a New Lens: How Grandparents Define Our Modern Family


One of our members, Generation United, has been heavily promoting their events to celebrate Grandparent’s Day on September 8th. So it is fitting to have the Pew Center release a report this week titled, “At Grandmother’s House We Stay,” which analyzes family units that incorporate grandparents.

The report found that 1 in 10 children live with their grandparents, and grandparent-grandchild households are more likely to be living below the poverty line (28% versus 17%). This creates challenges as both groups tend to receive human services from different sources. Additionally, many parents who live with their grandparents live with challenging circumstances: 44% faced teenage pregnancy, 12% have disabilities, 21% are unemployed, 29% lack a high school diploma, and 22% are currently enrolled in school.

Grandparents 1

These families of children, parents, and grandparents need a collaborative, integrated network of human services organizations in order to thrive and flourish. The National Human Services Assembly recognized the need to reframe the human services field to meet these needs in a 2009 report titled, “Through a New Lens: A Fundamental Reframing of ‘the Client.’

If we truly believe what we say about making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and adults, then we need to acknowledge a fundamental flaw in how we tend to frame and think about our work.

The client is not the child.

The client is not the parent.

The client is the family.

Furthermore, by family we don’t mean as defined by partisan politics or religious doctrine, but rather as how people define it for themselves.

After all, how many of our own families include members who are teenage parents, incarcerated fathers, unemployed seniors, or disabled workers? Are these nontraditional families what we picture when we hear about initiatives to “Strengthen the Family?” They need to be.

Youth crises are family crises. Older-adult crises are family crises. Crises that parents face are crises that impact the entire family.

If we change the lens to focus on how the whole family–whatever its makeup–can be supported by the human services field, then we can begin to put together comprehensive, integrated policies and support systems that enable all children, adults, and families to flourish. This will strengthen our families, and strengthen the human services field.

  • Read “Through a New Lens: A Fundamental Reframing of ‘the Client'” here.
  • Read “At Grandmother’s House We Stay” here. 
  • Learn more about Grandparent’s Day here. 

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