Moms, Grandmas, Aunts, and More

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In Allendale, two out of three children do not live in a two-parent household. Of the “non-nuclear” families, I’ve seen a variety  of other living arrangements for kids:

  • with only Mom (or only Dad)
  • with Grandparents (or Mom + Grandparents)
  • with Aunt (or “Auntie”)
  • with someone else who is not a relative

Now, you have to be careful about how some of these situations are classified. Some kids who live with their aunts call her “Mom,” and even some who live with non-relatives call them “Mom” or “Auntie.” I’m not sure if this is for simplicity, or out of avoiding shame. Maybe a combination of both.

These living arrangements are common in times and cultures of poverty. Pew Research reports that in bad economies, more Americans move in with relatives. In order to pool resources or as a way to help family members who lack resources, 51 million people are living in multi-generational (three or more generations) households in the US (that number from 2009 is an all-time high).

A survey by the National Institute on Aging shows that a majority of grandparents are providing care for their grandchildren, and 2.4 million grandparents were raising their grandchildren without the kids’ parents present. In the 2010 US Census, “8 percent of grandparents live with their grandchildren.” I expect that percentage to be greater in high-poverty areas like Allendale.

Now, the good news in this information: I was told by a state employee (in the DSS office) that Allendale has a very low rate of children who need adopting and foster care. Why? Because there is always a family member around who will take a child in.

That is one of the strength of this community, and of others like it. No matter now much you are struggling to make it, if a family member (adult or especially a child) needs help, you step up. Allendale has Aunties and Grandmas who have taken in multiple kids, because the children’s mothers were not willing or able to take care of those kids.

What these “surrogate” parents are doing should be celebrated, applauded, and (for goodness sake) supported.

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**image courtesy of mzacha via


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