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Grandparents raising grandchildren
Bad economy one reason why 5.8M grandkids live with grandparents
Grandpa Robert Johnson and grandson Carson Rich, 5, read a book at the Manteca Public Library where they go at least three times a week after school. Johnson and wife Hope, who have 12 grandkids, are raising Carson who is in kindergarten at Great Valley Academy in Manteca. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

When it comes to the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren, the numbers are in the millions.

7.8 million - number of children living in a household with grandparents or other relatives.

more than 5.8 million - children living in homes owned by grandparents.

nearly 2 million - children living in other relatives' homes.

more than 2.5 million - grandparents who are taking on the responsibility for their grandchildren. Often, neither parent of the young children is present in the grandparents' home.

Statistics in California alone show:

1,221,251 children under the age of 18 are living in homes where the grandparents or other relatives are the householders. For perspective, 13.2 percent of children in California are under the age of 18, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

281,067 - the number of grandparents who are the householders and are fully responsible for taking care of their grandchildren living with them. Of this number, 63 percent of these grandparents are under the age of 60, and 15 percent of them living in poverty.

Fortunately for these grandparents who are raising their own grandchildren, there are many available programs and information about a wide variety of assistance available to help them. One of these sources, for starters, are available at




It was early Monday morning. Victor Pothipinya was driving his 11-year-old grandson and eight-year-old granddaughter to school.

Near the McKee Boulevard and Village Avenue intersection, Pothipinya who was driving a pickup truck collided with a 10-year-old who was riding his bike to Mossdale School near City Hall in Lathrop. The impact threw the young boy to the ground, while the front wheel of his bike was caught under the front right wheel of Pothipinya’s truck. The shaken 7-year-old brother of the victim, who was riding his own bike to school with his sibling, witnessed the entire incident.

Shortly after the police, firefighters and paramedics arrive, and before the Medi-flight arrived to air-transport the young victim to the University of California, Davis Medical Center, Ron and Addie McCoy arrived at the scene. They introduced themselves as the grandparents of the two boys and that they are the ones who are raising them.

One passerby overheard the McCoys’ words commented, “there are many grandparents today doing the same thing,” - taking on the role of parents for their grandkids whose own parents, for some reason or another, are unable to take on that responsibility.

In Manteca, Robert and Hope Johnson are doing the same thing.

“We’re raising him,” Robert, who is a former crane operator and truck driver who worked for Northern Burlington Railroad company and a US Navy veteran - he served eight years in the Navy - said of his grandson Carson Rich, 5, during one of their recent weekly jaunts at the Manteca Public Library.

Robert had been sidelined from his job off and on from the railroad until he was permanently laid off in 2005. His wife, Hope, is employed in management at Comcast in Sacramento. All in all, they are the grandparents of 12 kids.

Robert and his gregarious grandson make a reading stop at the library every Wednesday on the way home from Great Valley Academy where Carson is in kindergarten. The Johnsons live in the Nile Garden School area, but Hope heard about the charter school on Button Avenue in Manteca and attended an informational meeting. The school has a long waiting list of students wanting to get in, so the Johnsons had to go through a lottery system “and we got lucky to get in,” Robert said explaining how Carson earned a space for the 2012-13 school year at Great Valley which opened in Manteca just last year.

“We like the school; we like the concept of it,” he said of Great Valley whose curriculum requires the students to learn Spanish and other extra lessons, in addition to the standard subjects offered to those in public school.

Raising grandkids ‘ajoy and a blessing’

Instead of feeling bogged down by having to repeat the parenting responsibility from which they have already graduated, Robert said, “It’s a joy and a blessing to be able to do it.”

His wife shares the same sentiments, he said.

Speaking for himself, Robert said of spending time with his grandson, “He keeps me young. It gives me something to do, and as active as he is, he keeps me busy,” the proud grandfather said smiling as the two read a book during a recent visit to the library.

“He gets to read at least a book” in the library at every visit, he said.

“Every Wednesday we came by during the Summer Reading Program,” he added.

The Johnsons’ story is not unusual in the Manteca area where they live.

“In my neighborhood, at least two families are taking care of grandkids. One has three small ones,” said Robert who was born and raised in Georgia and whose own mother used to go to the same Baptist church where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached. In fact, he recalled, “My mom used to go to his marches.”

“It’s happening in other places, too,” he added about grandparents like them raising their grandchildren.

“Everywhere I go, I meet someone in the same situation - especially with the economy as it is - people losing jobs and homes and moving back in (with parents); it’s just a survival technique,” he said.