Department of Family Services – Older Adults

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7948 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Suite 708
Fairfax, VA 22035
Trina Mayhan-Webb

Raising Grandchildren: Stressful and Delightful

Article by Kathleen Thomas, Department of Family Services

(Posted 2022 June)

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Jerry and Michelle Shapiro pose for a photo with Santa with grandsons Cayden and Cameron. Jerry Shapiro, 65, often spends time with his grandsons after school and on weekends kicking a ball around the yard, riding bikes, or heading to the local playground. 

“I never had children of my own. For me, I never thought I would be around little kids. It is delightful, but it can be stressful,” he says.

Jerry works full-time as a data analyst for a credit union. He admits that he and his wife are not where they envisioned themselves at this point in their lives. 

“We were planning to sail off into the sunset,” he says. “We were planning our retirement and now we are raising kids.” 

Jerry and his wife, Michelle, are raising their two grandsons Cayden, 9, and Cameron, 7. His grandsons’ father is Jerry’s stepson. Jerry says the boys’ parents have cycled in and out of homelessness and battled substance abuse challenges for several years. 

When grandparents and other family members care for children who are not able to be raised by their own parents, children experience more stability and fewer disruptions. This arrangement, called kinship care, gives the children a sense of belonging from their continued connectedness to family and culture. 

Jerry explains, ”It is hard for everyone in the family. There is grief and loss.”

“The parents are children, and you care deeply for your children. But they (adult children) aren’t being successful as adults. You give up your life to care for their children,” he says. “Sometimes you can be resentful.” 

The boys lived with one parent or the other in their younger years. However, Jerry and Michelle now have full-time custody of their grandsons which has made it easier when they take the boys for medical appointments and other matters that require parental consent. 

The Shapiros are called kinship caregivers for their grandsons. They receive support through the Fairfax County Department of Family Services’ Kinship Care program. The program assists kinship families who need a connection to services, such as childcare, education, health care, and financial help. The program also offers support from professionals or peers. More than 3,000 grandparents are raising their grandchildren in Fairfax County. 

“Kinship has been a great help to us,” Jerry says. “We started with a social worker who came to visit us every month.” 

Their social worker has helped them find programs and services they needed such as seminars, trainings, and workshops that focus on a kinship family’s needs. Their social worker sometimes serves as an intermediary when they need to have difficult discussions with the boys’ parents. 

Kinship Cafés have been helpful to Jerry’s family too. The cafés are meetings designed to give kinship caregivers an opportunity to connect with other families who understand their perspective. Trained professionals facilitate the twice monthly meetings, with one meeting a month featuring a presentation and discussion on a specific topic. 

Jerry says they look forward to attending each month. “It helps to know you are in a room with people who understand what you are going through.” 

“The kinship program makes sure we are going to be successful having the kids in the house and that we have the supports available to us.” 

Jerry is currently attending ARC Reflections, a nine-week program for kinship caregivers to learn about the impact of trauma on children. He says he is grateful for the kinship program and the information and support his family has received.  

Jerry says that everyone has good days and bad days.

“You don’t have the energy at 60 years old that you had when you were 20 or 30,” he recalls. “You have to take care of yourself and treat yourself with kindness.” 

He offers some advice to other caregivers. “When you feel overwhelmed, it is important give yourself time to relax, enjoy a walk, listen to music. It will be better, and you will be able to do it.”

For more information about kinship programs and services offered by the Department of Family Services visit and search “kinship”. 

This article is part of the Golden Gazette monthly newsletter which covers a variety of topics and community news concerning older adults and caregivers in Fairfax County. Are you new to the Golden Gazette? Don’t miss out on future newsletters! Subscribe to get the electronic or free printed version mailed to you. Have a suggestion for a topic? Share it in an email or call 703-324-GOLD (4653).

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