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Financial and Legal Resources for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Money is a common problem for the nearly 2.4 million U.S. grandparents who are raising their grandchildren today. To help with the day-to-day expenses, there are a wide variety of programs and tax benefits that can make a big difference in stretching your budget. Here’s where to look for help.

Financial Assistance

For starters, find out whether your family qualifies for your state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which may include cash assistance, food benefits, utility bill assistance and free or low-cost daycare. Or, if your household income is too high to qualify as a family, ask about the “child-only grant” for just the grandkids support alone.

Also, check to see if you’re eligible for foster care payments as a relative caregiver, or if your state offers any additional programs like guardianship subsidies, non-parent grants or kinship care. Adoption assistance payments are also available to adopted grandchildren with special needs. The state of Vermont offers Vermont Kin as Parents, and you can visit their website at Vkap.org.

To inquire about these programs, contact your state’s TANF program and/or state Department of Human Services.

You also need to see if your grandkids are eligible for Social Security, including benefits for dependent children, survivor benefits or SSI – visit SSA.gov or call 800-772-1213. And find out if they’re eligible for free/low-cost health or dental coverage through your state’s Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – InsureKidsNow.gov or 877-543-7669.

You can also use Benefits.gov, the official benefits website of the U.S. government that has a screening tool to help you identify the programs that you and your grandchildren may be eligible for and will direct you to the appropriate agency to apply.

Tax Benefits

In addition to the financial assistance programs, there are also a range of tax benefits that you may qualify for too like the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC which is available to those with moderate to low incomes, and the Child Tax Credit which is worth $2,000 per dependent child under age 17.

If you’re working, and are incurring childcare expenses to work, there’s a Child and Dependent Care Credit that can help. And, if you’ve legally adopted your grandkids, there’s an Adoption Tax Credit that provides a federal tax credit of up to $16,810 in 2024.

You can also deduct medical and dental expenses if you and your dependent grandchildren’s healthcare costs exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income for the year. And there’s even education-related tax credits that can help your grandkids go to college, like the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit.

In addition to the tax credits and deductions, if you’re unmarried you may qualify for “head of household” status when you file your tax return, which has a higher standard deduction and a lower tax rate than you would filing as a single.

Legal Help

You should also talk to an attorney to discuss the pros and cons of obtaining legal guardianship, custody, or adoption. Without some sort of legal custody, you may not be eligible for many of the previously listed financial assistance programs, and there can be problems with basic things like enrolling your grandkids in school or giving a doctor permission to treat them.

For help locating affordable or free legal assistance, visit FindLegalHelp.org, or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 for referrals. Also see GrandFamilies.org, a clearinghouse resource that offers information on financial assistance, adoption, foster care and more.

Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.

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