Grandparents as parents, again. Grandparents are being recycled as parents, becoming a second time around parent to one or more grandchildren. Millions of grandparents have returned to the role of parent, including us. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, over the last 25 years, the number of children being raised by someone other than a parent has increased dramatically, with the vast majority of these children being raised by their grandparents.
The numbers of grandparents raising grandchildren, actually raising their grandchild(ren) as parents typically would, versus grandchildren and parents simply living in the grandparents home, continues to increase. Between 1990 and 1998, the number of families in grandparent-headed households without either parent present increased by 53 percent, and the 2000 Census Report placed the total number of children living in a grandparent- or other relative-headed household at 6 million.
Reasons why grandparents take on the responsibility and challenges of second-time parent to grandchildren can vary widely. Regardless of the possible, widely varied reasons why a grandparent might gain custody of their grandchild, the most important reason is that having the grandparent(s) getting legal custody of the grandchild is in the best interests of the child. The interests and needs of the child are given top priority, as it should be.
Each state has its own list of qualifying reasons or situations that would allow and approve of grandparents getting legal custody of a grandchild, either temporary custody or permanent full-time legal custody. Some grandparents choose to go through the adoption process with their grandchild(ren), perhaps after the sudden and tragic death or long-term incarceration of the child’s parent(s).
Grandparents have various legal options to consider very carefully, and having the encouragement and support of family members, friends and support groups can do much in the way of easing the challenges and stress grandparents often face when finding themselves in the position of needing to raise their grandchild(ren).
Some, but not all, of the possible reasons why grandparents might step back into the parenting role a second time around include:
- Substance Abuse
- Death of a parent
- Child abuse and/or neglect
- Teenage Pregnancy
- Parental Military Deployment
- Mental Health Problems
- Family Violence
By going through the legal process of getting legal custody or guardianship of a grandchild, grandparents (and other relative caregivers) are keeping families together and grandparents are serving as a safety net, providing grandchildren the stability, security, safety and wholesome family life children deserve and need, and kept out of the foster care system.
Whatever the cause, “Grandfamilies” are formed when parents are unable or unwilling to care for their children, often occurring quite suddenly without warning or time to prepare. Support and encouragement for Grandparents As Parents (“GAP’S”) , or “GRG’s (Grandparents Raising Grandchildren) are available from a variety of resources. Local or online support groups for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren; wonderful and well-written books providing detailed tips and helpful guides throughout the legal processes of gaining legal custody of grandchildren; reading personal stories and experiences of other grandparents and family caregivers of grandchildren that help grandparents understand they’re not alone, etc.
My (at the moment) personal favorite informational resource in everything related to being one of millions of grandparents raising a grandchild is Sylvie de Toledo and Deborah Edler Brown’s book called Grandparents as Parents, Second Edition: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family, Second Edition. Some have referred to the book as a Bible-type book for grandparents with grandchildren to raise, which may be true but I’m not quite ready to deem the book as The Ultimate Go-To book for grandparents.
Being the reading-aholic that I am, reading several books for grandparents raising grandchildren has been one of my top priorities. Stepping back into the parenting role for a second go-around was nowhere on my radar. It simply never occurred to me that I/we might ever find ourselves taking on the role and responsibilities (even with its many rewards) of parenting young children all over again, but here we are doing just that. We are blessed and happy to be one of many Grandfamilies, raising a young grandson.
If you or someone you know is a grandparent that has been or once raised grandchildren as their own children, these grandparents have my deepest, deepest respect and admiration.