Family Bonds: Grandparents as Caregivers

May 18, 2016


In the beginning, I kept saying “babies are for young people. I’m not as energetic as I used to be.” I couldn’t imagine being the child care provider of an infant at my age, but with the cost of quality child care being so high and my daughter starting a new job shortly after giving birth, I knew it was for the best that my husband and I care for Kai, just for a short while, until she could find a long-term solution.

We’ve been his child care provider for two years now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Kai has been wonderful for my husband, Harold, who has limited mobility. His whole being is Kai. Every day he’s downstairs at 7:30 a.m. waiting for Kai to arrive. Harold never moves that fast any other time. And Kai is just as excited to see him in the mornings. Kai runs into the house, hugs his grandpa, and they go straight to playing. I’m usually in the kitchen preparing breakfast, and all I hear is laughter coming from the living room.


Throughout the day, Kai and I read together, and I’ve set up several play stations so he can learn independently. I was an early education teacher for over 30 years. I taught all over the world under the Department of Defense when my husband was in the Air Force. Then we were stationed in Maryland and I taught kindergarten and pre-K in Prince George’s County. I began teaching before public preschool existed. At that time, I was teaching five year olds about colors, because at least 50% of the children started school not knowing their colors, or letters, or even certain sounds. But the ones who came from quality child care programs came in ready. By November those children were reading.

It’s a vicious cycle. Families are struggling to afford child care, and providers are struggling, too. We expect people to take care of our most precious commodity, but we don’t pay them fairly. I mean really, how can you be up for the challenge of shaping young minds when you are hardly making ends meet yourself? It’s such a silly concept, because if we don’t prepare children early, how will they perform in high school? Things have changed for teachers, but there is still a lot that needs to be done to support child care professionals.

Geraldine Dobbins, MA, is a retired Early Childhood Educator and grandmother of five.

Gerry is making a difference in her grandchild’s life every day as a FFN caregiver. We need more qualified and caring individuals like Gerry to support working families. Family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care is the most common form of non-parental child care in the United States. Nearly half of all children (under the age of six) spend time in FFN care and nearly a quarter of all children who receive federal child care subsidies use FFN care. Child Care Aware® of America recommends that we develop new strategies to finance and sustain FFN supports. 


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Topics: Policy & Advocacy, Family Stories, Parenting

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