One of the major problems of the AIDS epidemic in Africa (and soon in Asia, Russia, China and India, too), is that it hits the middle age people most (mainly because in Africa, AIDS is sexually transmitted between heterosexuals). This has the effect of removing parents from society. Its hard to write that blandly, without feeling the impact of it in your gut – especially if you live in Africa at the moment. For example, The Starfish Foundation estimates that there will be over 2 million orphans in southern Africa alone, by the year 2010.
This is a demographic tidal wave.
But I was interested to discover that it is by no means unique to Africa, nor to AIDS affected countries. In Australia, for example, there are over 22,500 grandparent-headed families (see full report). The majority of those cases are a result of a parent’s drug or alcohol abuse, neglect, death or disability.
According to The US Census 2000, there were 2,350,477 grandparents in the USA responsible for raising one or more of their grandchildren (from GrandsPlace), accounting for 6% (or 4.5 million) of all US children. The literature on this phenomenon suggests that there are probably many more children in informal care arrangements residing with their grandparents than the data can capture, and the number is growing rapidly (see more info at National Center for Grandparents raising Grandchildren or In the US, between 1990 and 2000, the number of children under 18 increased by 14.3%; within that same decade, the number of US children in grandparent-headed households increased by 30%. The data also indicates that grandparent-headed households are twice as likely to live in poverty as other American families.
This is a frightening social phenomenon.

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