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    See how many families in Harney County rely on grandparents for childcare

    By Stacker,

    2024-05-16

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    1 in 471 people in Harney County, Oregon are grandparents caring for grandchildren

    Every family looks a little different. In some parts of the U.S., a family structure where grandparents take on guardian responsibilities for their young grandchildren is fairly common.

    These families are referred to as "grandfamilies," or "kinship families." Kinship families can also refer to a family where someone other than a grandparent is stepping in to provide care.

    Grandfamilies often begin when a child might otherwise go without regular care, and a grandparent is willing to step into the role of parent for them. This might occur when parents are unable to care for their own children for many reasons including substance use disorders, deportation, death, military deployment, disabilities, or incarceration. Sometimes these kinds of family arrangements can keep children in a more traditional household with relatives when they might otherwise end up in foster care.

    Stacker analyzed Census data to illustrate how prevalent grandfamilies are in Harney County, Oregon. The data describes households where at least one grandparent reported being responsible for a grandchild they live with under 18. Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, this analysis does not include all kinship families.

    More than 2.2 million people in the U.S. identify as grandparents caring for grandchildren under 18 years old, according to Stacker's analysis of Census data. Grandfamily arrangements are more common in counties with smaller populations. Children in these nontraditional arrangements also tend to live in households with lower incomes and depend more heavily on assistance programs for food and other resources.

    About 3% of children were being raised in either grandfamily or kinship care settings in the U.S. in 2022, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center. According to a report published this year in collaboration with the foundation, grandfamilies and kinship care arrangements are becoming more prevalent.

    The report found that states are making strides in creating new policies to support these families, but that more can be done to increase federal funding and more rapidly implement standards that make placing foster children with relatives as caregivers less of a hassle. Already overwhelmed foster care systems across the country are also expected to absorb more children as a result of abortion bans instituted in recent years.

    These kinds of family structures have proven advantages for children—especially those in the foster care system. Studies have shown that they go through fewer school changes, which can be disruptive. They also maintain stronger cultural identities and have better mental health outcomes than those in foster care with guardians who aren't relatives, according to the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network, an advocacy and aid organization for grandfamilies.

    But grandfamilies are also a family structure that comes with unique challenges for both guardians and the children involved. Grandfamily guardians tend to be older and aren't always prepared to take on all that raising a child requires, and compassion fatigue can become something they struggle with. What's more, aside from navigating stigmas around atypical family lives, U.S. law doesn't always accommodate these arrangements in a convenient way.

    That can make accessing certain kinds of assistance difficult, if not impossible, because of the way legal guardianship is not automatically assigned the same as it is for birth parents, according to the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network.

    Read on to see what grandfamilies look like in Harney County, Oregon.

    Grandfamilies in Harney County, Oregon by the numbers:
    - 1 in 471 people in Harney County, Oregon are grandparents caring for grandchildren
    - There was a 38% decrease in grandparents caring for children in 2022
    - The total population in Harney County is 7,532 people
    - The typical person in Harney County earns $56,001 annually

    Top counties for grandfamilies in Oregon
    - 1. Morrow County: 1 in 68 are grandparents caring for grandchildren
    - 2. Wheeler County: 1 in 84
    - 3. Jefferson County: 1 in 85

    This story features data reporting and writing by Dom DiFurio and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 3,033 counties.

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