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UK study reports high rates of trauma exposure in Kentucky children raised by grandparents

By Kentucky Health News

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 8, 2014) — The University of Kentucky Center for Trauma and Children sent out a report about the well-being of trauma-exposed families in which a grandparent is the primary caregiver and where no biological parent is present. The report calls these families “grandfamilies.” In Kentucky, more than 67,000 children live with a grandparent, and biological parents are absent in more than half of those cases.

“According to the study, substance abuse, child maltreatment and incarceration were the top three reasons these children lived with a grandparent,” Elizabeth Adams writes for UK Public Relations.

The report also found that 73 percent of children in the sample of grandfamilies had suffered one or more traumatic experiences, and more than 16 percent had suffered four or more. Forty-three percent of the grandparents said their grandchild had a special mental-health need, and more than 17 percent said their grandchild had been diagnosed with a disorder related to trauma. Also, the grandparents participating in the study said they suffered from an average of at least two chronic illnesses.

Almost 300 grandparent caregivers participated in the study through the Caregiver Program for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren between March and December 2013. Both rural and urban families were interviewed. The study highlights a need for more specialized services for traumatic stress in children and “enhanced legal, financial and health care resources for their caregivers,” Adams writes.

Dr. Ginny Sprang, director of the UK Center for Trauma and Children, served as the principal investigator for the study.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.