Three percent of all children in Kansas under 18 are living in households where a grandparent provides that child’s primary care. And approximately 33 percent of children currently in foster care in Kansas are being cared for by relatives, in many instances, grandparents. On Sept. 11, DCF will celebrate National Grandparents Day for the essential role many grandparents play in the raising of children.
One such couple, Rex and Lynne Studebaker, Kansas City, took on the responsibility to raise a granddaughter and grandson in 1981, and that responsibility is ongoing. The couple stepped in when their daughter was unable to care for a newborn who was struggling to survive. The Studebakers raised the granddaughter, who is now living independently and has children of her own. But the couple’s 35-year-old grandson, Paul, has development disabilities and is still dependent on their care.
The Studebakers attended a proclamation signing at Governor Sam Brownback’s office in August to recognize Sept. 11 as National Grandparents Day.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) took the opportunity to praise grandparents like the Studebakers who step in to raise children in critical times who might otherwise go to unknown families in foster care.
DCF stresses the importance of grandparents, because children placed with grandparents or other relatives experience fewer placement moves, are more likely to be placed with siblings, and have fewer behavior problems.
“It is always our goal to keep children in their homes when it is safe to do so,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. “When that is not possible, grandparents often provide a safe and loving alternative to reduce the trauma of children being removed from their home.”
Such was the case with the Studebakers.
“We didn’t want them bouncing around in the Missouri state system,” said Rex Studebaker of his grandchildren, who were living in Missouri with their mother when the crisis arose. “People asked us why we would take on this responsibility at our age. But it doesn’t matter when it’s your family. We loved them too much to not do all we could.”
Paul was diagnosed at a young age as having benign hypotonia, a condition in which muscles don’t develop normally. Just to feed Paul was a monumental task. But through diligent effort by his parents, and the assistance of special education programs in the Shawnee Mission schools, Paul eventually developed his motor skills.
Now Paul is able to do many tasks that were not before dreamed possible. Through the Johnson County Development Supports program he works in food service and participates in Special Olympics.
“We gave him a chance to have pleasure, to experience responsibility, to have a good life,” said Lynne. “We’ve seen him make such improvement. He can do so many things for himself that doctors said he’d never do.”
The Kansas Department for Aging and Disabilities (KDADS) provides support to grandparents serving as parents through its Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP). The program was created by several agencies concerned with the welfare of older adults, children and youth.
RAPP offers support groups and referrals to community resources such as legal services, financial assistance, medical assistance, day care, emergency food, housing assistance and recreational activities for children.
For more information about RAPP, contact Sharon Dabzadeh at KDADS, by calling 785-296-4986 or 800-432-3535.
to right: Rex Studebaker, KVC Director of Integrated Services Kristalle
Dougherty, Saint Francis Community Services Kinship Supervisor Marla Dies, Gov.
Sam Brownback, Saint Francis Community Services Extreme Recruiter Crystal Fox,
Lynne Studebaker, DCF PPS Director Deneen Dryden, DCF Secretary Phyllis