Frequently Asked Questions

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren - Benefits

Benefits & Assistance

How can I get appropriate, affordable housing for myself and my grandchildren (i.e. no stairs, adequate facilities, affordable, etc.)?

The answer to this question varies by county and state in which you live. Many states and counties have agencies such as housing authorities which offer lower-income housing and may be able to help you find appropriate housing for older adults. Check with your local Housing Authority to get connected with housing resources in your area.

How does caring for grandchildren affect Social Security?

There will be no reduction in benefits because a grandparent cares for a grandchild in any arrangement (power of attorney, custody order, guardianship order, adoption). In cases of formal adoption, the grandparent may receive additional benefits because of the existence of the minor child. If the grandparent dies after an adoption is final but before the grandchild is 18-years-old, a Social Security benefit will be paid for the grandchild until he/she is 18-years. If one of the natural birth parents was qualified for Social Security and has died, the grandparents who are caring for the grandchild may be able to collect the natural birth parent's social security.

I am a grandparent raising four grandchildren on a budget! Where can I learn about benefits I can receive specific to my situation?

The AARP has a new tool on their website called, "QuickLINK." In this program you log on and answer a few questions and QuickLINK will tell you about all of the benefits you may be eligible to receive. Some links even provide you directly with the application to fill out online. To use QuickLINK, go to the link on the AARP's website at The website is for those ages 50 or older who are raising grandchildren or other relatives.

I am a grandparent under 60 years old and I am not disabled. Are there services that I qualify for?

Check with your local Department of Human Services for a list of services or to discuss services specific to your situation.

What is a subsidized adoption?

Subsidized adoption (usually referred to as subsidized guardianship) provides permanent families for at-risk children for whom it is not safe to return home. Subsidized adoption is frequently used in cases of abuse and/or neglect. Children who are candidates for subsidized adoption are children who have been in the state welfare system, and at risk of being placed in foster care, and for whom adoption is not appropriate. Subsidized guardianship makes it possible for these children to live permanently in the care of a legal guardian. This guardian has to agree to provide a safe and loving home for the child(ren). The guardian receives ongoing payments to help provide for the needs of the child. Often the guardian is a relative or a close family friend of the child and is sometimes referred to as a "kinship caregiver." Most states have a subsidized guardianship program; however, these programs vary state by state. These programs are relatively new making kinship care more and more feasible.

I have physical custody of my grandchild and I am their sole financial support. What will our family qualify for in the way of support and assistance?

You could possible quality for TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) Medicaid for the child, and depending upon the total income to the household, might quality for SNAP (Supplemental Food Assistance Program- formerly Food Stamps). Also depending upon your age and income, you also may qualify for additional assistance. You need to check with your local Department of Human Services as to programs available, and their application process.

I do not have the financial resources to cover a hospital expense for a grandchild living with me. I am in the process of applying for Medicaid for my grandchild, but the hospital is threatening to go to collections. What can I do?

You need to contact the collection agency and inform them of the fact you are applying for Medicaid for the child. Depending upon when you applied, and when the medical treatment was provided, you need to talk to your worker about backdating the Medicaid. The Medicaid can only be backdated three months from the date of the application, so you need to take that into consideration when you contact the Collection Agency. If the child was on Medicaid in another household, that could also be taken into consideration.

What programs are available to help me cover medical expenses for a grandchild for whom I have physical custody?

The child may be eligible for Medicaid. You can call your Human Services office and have an application mailed to you (there is no interview necessary), or you may obtain a Medicaid application from your Human Services office.

I am a grandparent who has recently become the caregiver for my grandchild with disabilities. What is Social Security Income (SSI)?

Social Security Income is available for children who are physically or emotionally disabled. The child may qualify for monthly income and/or health care through Medicaid. These payments will continue for as long as the child is disabled. To apply, visit your local Social Security office. A physical or another professional person must be willing to state the child has a physical or mental condition that can be medically proved and which results in "marked or severe functional limitation." The condition must last at least 12 months or be expected to result in death. As a grandparent who is caring for a disabled grandchild, you can apply for SSI by contacting Social Security. Keep in mind that most claims are initially denied and that an attorney can help.

All grandparents raising children are not at retirement ages. What kind of assistance is available to help the grandparents with childcare while the grandparent works?

It depends on the state, even the county. Grandparents who are required to work (because they are part of the TANF assistance unit) are entitled to the same childcare assistance parents receive.

Are there special financial aid programs for grandchildren being raised by grandparents for college?

For information on assistance with college and higher education costs, contact the Financial Aid Office at a college or university. High school guidance counselors also have information on this.

Do I need legal custody to get housing assistance?

In most situations, grandparents must have legal custody of their grandchildren in order to qualify for financial assistance with housing, medical, educational, and other assistance.

Why can't I get more help in raising my grandchild?

Many persons question why they can't get financial assistance for raising their grandchildren for either cost-of-living, health care, education, or legal needs. While the system may seem unfair, it may help you when dealing with case workers, attorneys or policymakers to keep their philosophy in mind. First, anyone who provides informal care for a family member could claim they deserve assistance. Monitoring and determining this need would be intrusive, cumbersome and expensive.

Second, many policymakers might say that families have an obligation and responsibility to care for family members. Why should the state pay for grandparents to care for a family member? Is it the state's role to become involved in the daily caregiving tasks of families (by deciding who should receive financial assistance)? While providing kinship assistance is less expensive than putting a child in the foster care system, it is even less expensive to not provide financial assistance to grandparents or other family members. This may seem unfair, but it is an opinion held by many persons.

I am a grandparent providing care for my grandchild. Where can I get affordable legal help?

Several organizations offer free legal help! Some good resources are Colorado Legal Services, which operates throughout the state, and lawyers who provide advice as a public resource, through a contract with The Office on Aging in your county. Also, in many areas of the state, the local bar association has a program for providing legal advice for community members, so you could call the bar association to ask.

Another resource is the State Judicial Administration website, which has forms for the public to use for certain court proceedings, including adoption, guardianship, and allocation of parental responsibility proceedings. Here is the link for the form site, although there is only limited information available about how to use the forms:

Many attorneys specialize in family law matters, and you may want to consult a private attorney to advise you or represent you in your efforts. Even if you do not choose to retain an attorney to represent you in your case, you may want to hire an attorney for an hour (or more) of coaching and advice. This is sometimes called "unbundled legal services." It can often be very useful to consult an attorney (either a private attorney or a "free" attorney available through one of the programs listed above) for advice before you jump into one of these legal arenas, so that you can focus your efforts on the most effective approach for your family's particular situation.

Is there a source of assistance for persons with limited reading ability to help them understand the laws?

Most states are still struggling with legislation and more immediate laws regarding grandparents raising grandchildren. Special assistance for those with limited English or reading abilities is not a priority. Persons who need assistance should enlist the help of an advocate who can help interpret the legalize. Check your local phone book or 211 resources for organizations that provide service and advocacy for particular ethnic groups or persons with special needs.