Many Kentucky children living with grandparents have gone through traumatic experiences according to A University of Kentucky study.
The report found 73% of children living in grandparent-led families had suffered from at least one traumatic experience. Substance abuse, maltreatment, and parent incarceration were the top three reasons these children lived with a grandparent.
UK Center for Trauma and Children Director Ginny Sprang, principal investigator of the study, said physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse in families of origin with their biological parents are most often the reasons children come into the care of their grandparents.
The trauma typically involves parental substance abuse, child maltreatment, or incarceration. Strang says that because those suffering at least four traumatic experiences face an increased risk for adult morbidity and mortality, this situation puts a great deal of stress solely on the grandparent.
"So, you've got single grandparents parenting very young children with high rates of trauma exposure and they have infrequent contact with the biological parent,” Strang said, “So, much of that caregiving burden is placed upon them."
Sprang says the study points to a need for increased availability of specialized counseling services.
"You shouldn't have to drive to Lexington or Louisville to get specialist care,” Sprang said. “There's no reason why professionals in these areas can't be trained to do this."
As they grow, Strang says these children are more likely to be in relationships where there is violence and where they perpetuate violence themselves. Nearly 300 grandparent caregivers in 71 Kentucky counties were interviewed for the study.