Census 2000: Greenwich

Grandparents’ Roles Taking on a new Meaning

Oct. 19, 2001

By Vesna Jaksic

Judy Coleman raised a daughter. Now she is raising her daughter’s son, acting as both grandmother and mother. Joyce McKenzie said taking care of six children can be difficult for a single mother, but it didn’t stop her from raising her 4-year-old grandson. When Theresa Greco’s daughter had two children, Greco became a parent again, raising her two granddaughters while their mother was in school.

The three Greenwich grandmothers are among more than 1 million grandparents nationwide who are parenting for the second time in their lives. More than 20,000 grandparents in Connecticut are responsible for taking care of their grandchildren, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Of this number, the majority are women, who account for about 65 percent of the grandparents serving as caregivers.

Like many of these grandparents, 50-year-old Coleman decided to take care of her 4-year-old grandson Marquise because her daughter had a  substance abuse problem.

“(My daughter) had him and she just wasn’t a responsible parent, so I took over,” said Coleman, who has been her grandson’s primary caregiver since his birth and obtained legal custody of him two years ago.

Substance abuse and child neglect are the most common reasons why more grandparents have taken over caring for their grandchildren during the past 30 years, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Generations United, a nonprofit organization promoting intergenerational policies and programs.

Local officials could not provide estimates on how many Greenwich grandparents have legal custody of their grandchildren. Court officials at the Greenwich probate court and the juvenile court in Stamford, who deal with legal guardianship cases in Greenwich, said they haven’t seen any such cases in more than a year.

But many grandparents may not be accounted for since they take care of their grandchildren through informal arrangements, said Joe Paquin, supervisor of juvenile probation services at the juvenile court in Stamford.

Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, said this often occurs because grandparents want to avoid legal procedures, which can become costly and time consuming.

“Also, once you start into the court system, it can be very invasive and create a lot of tension,” said Butts, who added that many grandparents worry about how this will affect relationships with their children.

One grandmother interviewed for this story said she has been raising her granddaughter for seven years. She said she does not have legal custody of the child, who was neglected by her parents after her birth. She asked not to be identified by name because her granddaughter is not signed onto her apartment lease.

Theresa Greco, 77, said she didn’t need to get legal guardianship while raising her daughter’s children for about four years.

“She was a single mother and she wanted to go back to school, so I helped her out,” said Greco, who is now also helping raise Joshua, her 2-year-old great-grandson.

For most grandparents, raising their grandchildren is usually not a temporary arrangement. More than 7,000 grandparents in Connecticut have been taking care of their grandchildren for five years or more, according to the Census Bureau.

Barbara Abraham, director of the elderly program at The Consultation Center in New Haven, said many grandparents take in their grandchildren because they don’t want them to be raised in an unhealthy environment.

“They can’t stand to watch that, and understandably so,” said Abraham, who facilitates a support group for grandparents raising children.

Poverty is an issue in many of these households, as numbers show children raised by their grandparents are more likely to live in poverty and be uninsured than those raised by their parents. The statistics are sobering:
– More than 1,400 Connecticut grandparents who are raising grandchildren live below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau.
– One in three children raised by their grandparents didn’t have health insurance in 1997.

Part of the reason is because most children have health coverage through their parents’ employers. Coverage under a private insurance plan often doesn’t cover grandchildren.

Joyce McKenzie, a single mother with six children, said she gets some state money for the grandson she’s raising, but it’s not nearly enough.

“It’s hard, it’s a lot of work,” said McKenzie, who works as a part-time bartender in Stamford. McKenzie, 38, said she started taking care of Jonathan after his parents neglected him.

“He needed care, and I just couldn’t see him getting a place,” she said.

While there are some financial resources for relatives serving as caregivers, funding is limited and some grandparents don’t know how to apply for it. Coleman said she didn’t know she was eligible for financial assistance for her grandson until she read a newspaper article about it last year.

“I think you have to find out who to go to, but I just never knew how,” she said.

Coleman has since met with a social worker from the Greenwich Department of Social Services.

“I know it will get hard, and I could really use all the help I can get,” she said.

Depending on the circumstances of each case, relatives usually go through juvenile or probate court to get legal guardianship. If they obtain custody through juvenile court, eligible grandparents can receive $658 per month from the Department of Children and Families for children under five years of age, $677 for children between 6 and 11, and $746 for those between 12 and 18.

Some assistance also is available for grandparents who become guardians through probate court. After applying to the state Department of Social Services, they may be eligible to receive $333 per month for the first child they are raising, and $283 and $233 for the second and third child.

Milagros Marrero-Johnson, director of community services for the Greater Hartford Salvation Army, said her organization has been working to reduce the discrepancy between the two funds.

“They should all get the same amount, regardless of guardianship,” she said. “They provide the same type of love, support and housing.”

Marrero-Johnson started Parents The Second Time Around, a support group for about 20 elderly caregivers. The group is part of the Grandparents As Parents Support program, a state-wide network of services.

None of these services is located in Greenwich, and the two in Stamford were discontinued about a year ago because of lack of funding.

Starting as early as October, some money will become available to selected organizations providing services to elderly caregivers thanks to the National Family Caregiver Support Act, part of the recently reauthorized Older Americans Act.

One of the nationally recognized services is the New Haven-based “The Cool Line,” a phone-referal resource where questions from grandparents are answered by a child development expert. It was rated as one of  eight model programs by the AARP.

Greco said she never needed help raising her granddaughters, but admitted parenting has become harder over the years.

“When my kids were growing up, they were outside  playing all the time,” she said. “Now there is so many things you have to worry about, you have to be on the lookout all the time.”

She also said raising grandchildren can take effort, but it also brings a lot of happiness.
“You can’t help but enjoy it,” Greco said. “The love that they show you and the appreciation is well worth it.”


Despite Higher Birth Rates for Males, Women Outnumber Men


Nov. 4, 2001

By Vesna Jaksic

Women in their late 20s and early 30s should go to Chickahominy to find a man, while men in their late 30s and early 40s looking for a woman their age may want to spend more time in Old Greenwich. And some women may need to go out of town to find a soulmate of the opposite sex, as Greenwich women outnumber men by more than 3,000.

These conclusions and others come from a study of the latest figures from the U.S. Census, which show Greenwich’s male/female ratio roughly matches that of the rest of the country.

Last year, 28,967 males and 32,134 females lived in town, an average of 90 men for every 100 women, the data show. This is only slightly lower than the state’s ratio. There were 94 males in Connecticut for every 100 females.

Wayne Villemez, director of population research at the University of Connecticut, said these ratios are typical of the rest of the country.

“More males are being born than females, but most females are outsurviving the males at almost any age,” he said.

One of the main factors is women’s higher life expectancy, Villemez said. Some imbalance also results from the number of men who have died in war, he added.

“There are a lot more widows than widowers,” he said.

Chickahominy is the most popular spot for people in their late 20s and early 30s, as it has about 15 percent of men and women between ages 25-34. With 99 men for every 100 women in their 20s and 30s, this age group comes closest to having an equal gender distribution.

There were 15,761 residents between ages 35-49 in town, just over one-quarter of the town’s population of 61,101. Old Greenwich is the most popular part of town for both men and women this age. With 684 men and 756 women, the ratio of 90 men for every 100 women in Old Greenwich is also the average for this age group in town.

With almost 600 boys and more than 550 girls between the ages of 5 and 17, Old Greenwich is anything but old, as it also had the highest population of school-age children in town. The ratio of 107 boys for every 100 girls in Old Greenwich reflects the gender breakdown for this population throughout the town, which averages 106 boys for every 100 girls.

John Curtin, the school district’s coordinator of research and evaluation, said he was not surprised to see more school-age boys than girls. As of Oct. 1, 4,544 boys were enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade, almost 400 more than the number of girls, he said. On average, boys outnumber the girls in all grades except for 10th and 11th, he said.

The high number of young people in Old Greenwich was not surprising to some of the town’s youth.

“Most of the people (my age) I know live in Cos Cob and Old Greenwich,” said Olivia Cummings, a 14-year-old Greenwich High School freshman.

Cummings, who lives in the backcountry, said she would consider taking a trip to Old Greenwich to meet kids her age, but “most of me and my friends hang out on Greenwich Avenue,” she said.

But Jimmy Jagodzinksi, 15, said he was surprised by the numbers, as he expected Byram and Glenville to be home to most teenagers.

“I always thought most of them lived on the west side,” said Jagodzinski, a central Greenwich resident.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Patti Giovine of Glenville said she would not be taking a trip to the east end that’s where boys her age live.

“I’m only interested in the older ones,” she said.


Glenville, Byram are Home for Town’s Most Senior Residents

Nov. 4, 2001

By Vesna Jaksic

The town’s elderly population, which accounts for some 18 percent of all residents, has the sharpest differences in its gender breakdown and distribution of all age groups, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Elderly women significantly outnumbered men their age, a factor largely attributed to women’s higher life expectancy, experts say.

There are more male than female babies being born, but this ratio starts to decline as the population reaches their late 20s. By the time residents reach 65, there are only 71 males for every 100 females between ages 65-85.

The disparity becomes even steeper as this group ages. Out of 1,374 residents who were 85 and older, less then one third were men, the data show. The gender contrast for this age group, which is 43 men for 100 women, is the highest in town.

The highest concentration of the town’s seniors live in Glenville, which was the place of residence for 416 men and 582 women between ages 65-85.

Maxine Goldstein, director of the Greenwich Commission on Aging, said she is not surprised by this.

“Glenville is one of the older communities in town,” she said. “Residents who lived there have often stayed there for many years.”

Betty Taracka, 83, who has lived in Byram for more than 60 years, said she is not surprised a lot of seniors like her have stuck around in the town’s west end. Many residents have stayed there because they inherited or purchased homes from their parents, she said.

“If parents die or leave, the kids inherit the house so they end up staying there,” said Taracka, who purchased her home from her mother-in-law.

Some seniors said cost is also a big factor in their decision to remain in Byram and Glenville, as those areas are generally less expensive than other parts of town.

“It’s a lot cheaper, that’s why I stayed here,” said Marge Valenti, 84, a Byram resident for 40 years.

But while Glenville is considered one of the town’s more affordable areas, a significant number of seniors also live in the wealthy backcountry. With 359 elderly residents, the northwest section of Greenwich is the second most common spot for elderly men and the third most common for female seniors.

While the gender ratio of Glenville seniors matches the town’s average of 71 men for every 100 women, the numbers are even more disproportionate in other parts of the town.

There are more than twice as many female seniors living in central Greenwich than male seniors, for example. But the east section of the backcountry is home to 112 male seniors for every 100 female seniors. It is the only part of the town with more elderly men than elderly women.

Goldstein said she was not sure why some parts of the town have more male than female seniors and vice versa, but she was not surprised about the high senior population in central Greenwich, as it houses two elderly public housing residences.