Parenting and the home environment provided by grandmothers of children in the child welfare system

Melissa M. Dolan, Cecilia Casanueva, Keith R. Smith, Robert H. Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


More than 2.4 million grandparents in the United States provide primary care for more than 4.5 million grandchildren, but little is known about how grandparents in the child welfare system (CWS) parent their grandchildren. Using a nationally representative sample of children reported for maltreatment to the CWS, the authors compared the parenting and home environments provided by grandmothers with those provided by nonkin foster caregivers. Grandmothers were older, less educated, less likely to be married, and more likely to be subsisting beneath the federal poverty level than foster caregivers. Grandmothers had significantly better parenting scores than foster caregivers, even when the child's age and the caregiver's race/ethnicity, education, and poverty level were taken into account. The home environment provided by grandmothers in the CWS was generally as good as the one provided by foster caregivers. These findings suggest that grandmothers are striving to give affection, be responsive, and-within their economic means-provide learning opportunities for the child. Findings also yield a profile of grandmothers' social and economic disadvantages, suggesting the need for increased support for grandmothers caring for children in the CWS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)784-796
Number of pages13
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Child Welfare System
  • Foster caregivers
  • Grandmothers
  • Kin caregivers
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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