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When grandparents rear their own grandkids

Years ago, when you pictured spending time with your future grandchildren, what did you envision? Perhaps you saw yourself decked out in finery, sipping tea with a granddaughter or tossing around the ball with your grandson.

It's likely that the memories you imagined making with your grandchildren did not include your being responsible for their 24/7 care and feeding. But then life intervened.

A worrisome trend

There are nearly 3 million grandparents in America who are rearing their grandchildren full-time. In fact, this trend is increasing, as there has been a 7% uptick since 2009 in the number of grandparents responsible for their grandkids' primary care.

According to findings from the Census Bureau, one-fifth of these grandparents are also living below the poverty line.

How we got here

The encroaching problem of parental drug addiction certainly has swelled the ranks of grandparent caregivers. But that is not the sole reason why grandparents fall into this role. Having an adult son or daughter serving in the military can result in an overseas deployment where grandparents step into the breach to rear the children.

Regardless of the reasons why you assumed this role in your grandchildren's lives, the fact is that it can be a difficult transition and a challenging role. There are biological reasons why younger adults conceive and bear children. For one, chasing behind an active toddler or monitoring a teen's activities requires an abundance of energy that many grandparents may struggle to summon.

When agencies are involved

Some grandparents wind up as their grandchildren's caretakers only when an agency like Child Protective Services (CPS) gets involved. Typically, these cases revolve around abuse and/or neglect on the part of the children's parent(s). As a better alternative to the kids entering the foster care system, the children instead are placed in their grandparents' homes.

Navigating the legal channels

If you suddenly find yourself in a full-time caregiving role for your grandchildren, it's important that you take the steps to legally protect both you and the children. Filing a guardianship petition with the Collin or Denton County civil courts will legally define your role in the grandkids' lives. This will allow you to seek medical care for them and prevent neglectful or abusive parents from removing your grandchildren from the safety and security of your home.

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