The first Sunday following Labor Day is designated as National Grandparents Day, founded in 1978. 

This day is set aside to honor grandparents similar to honoring parents on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Research shows that the unique strong intergenerational relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent comes with health benefits.  

Grandparents are shown to live longer, and grandchildren benefit from increased emotional stability when they have active relationships. Although there are many “traditional” grandchildren and grandparent relationships, there is also another group who are often not recognized: Grandparents raising their grandchildren.  

In Texas, there are approximately 266,337 grandparents who become a child caregiver long after they thought those years were behind them. Children are often placed in the care of grandparents for numerous reasons varying in complexity such as incarceration, substance abuse, severe disability, deportation, teenage pregnancy, or even death of the parents. There is often little time for the grandparents to plan and prepare for this major life change. 

Mercedes Bristol found herself in this very situation. At 57, with retirement on the horizon, Bristol had to become a parent to her five grandchildren. Feeling unprepared and overwhelmed, she had to navigate complicated social and legal systems to get the support that she and her grandchildren needed. She overcame many obstacles and barriers advocating for the needs of her grand family.   

While researching to better understand the need for support, information and resources, Mercedes founded Texas Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (TXGRG), a San Antonio-based nonprofit serving grandparents and grandchildren across Texas. The organization exists to give a voice, support and resources to this group of caregivers.  

“Feeling lost and alone, I sought out a support group that helped me realize I was not alone, helping me emotionally,” Bristol noted.

The building of a grand family comes with many challenges and opportunities. There’s the excitement of the first day of school, as well as the challenge of learning to navigate a new world of social media and online gaming. 

Grandparents may have feelings of isolation, with increased emotional and financial demands. To assist and support grandparents, TXGRG offers case management and access to much-needed resources, including legal and financial service referrals. 

Perhaps one of the most innovative aspects about TXGRG is the peer-to-peer model of case management and support groups. With 24 different support groups spread across Bexar and surrounding counties, TXGRG is able to offer grandparents access to the support they badly need. 

“All our case managers and support group leaders have been or are currently navigating the child welfare system,” said TXGRG Program Administrator Beth Brown. “[That gives] them the upper hand when it comes to helping families with complex care needs by coordinating services and support.”

On Grandparents Day, we celebrate the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren and recognize grandparents who make the added commitment to become parents again.  

Jennifer R. Brackett is Systems Administrator for Texas Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a member of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Successful Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA) coalition. Click here to contribute to this worthy cause!