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A closer look at the challenges facing today's grandparents

The number of baby boomers officially entering retirement is poised to explode over the next decade. After years spent working and raising families, this older generation of Americans will undoubtedly be embarking on a life of leisure, living off their pensions and retirement savings they have worked so hard to build and pursuing those hobbies that bring them the most happiness.

As it turns out, however, a large percentage of these baby boomers may find themselves assuming a new yet familiar role during their golden years: primary caregiver for their grandchildren.

That's because of the unfortunate reality that their own children may die or otherwise prove unable to care for their children because of certain difficulties (i.e., substance abuse problems, incarceration, mental illness, etc.).

If this seems difficult to believe, consider statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, which show that at least 2.7 million grandparents were raising their grandchildren in 2011 alone.

While most grandparents would be more than willing to take on the responsibility of acting as the primary caregiver for their grandchildren, it can prove to be a significantly harder endeavor than they may initially envision.

"When that call comes ... your whole life changes," said Sylvie de Toldeo, the founder of Grandparents as Parents, a non-profit agency dedicated to helping families make this transition. "It's turned inside out and upside down."

Indeed, grandparents in their 50s, 60s and even their 70s may not remember the physical and mental difficulties associated with raising a child, particularly one who has lost the everyday presence of their biological parent. Furthermore, most grandparents are living on fixed incomes and may not necessarily be in the best place financially to assume care of their grandchildren.

Fortunately, grandparents who find themselves in these situations have many options and places to go for help.

There are non-profits such as Grandparents as Parents that can help grandparents with the logistics of assuming care of their grandchildren, support groups dedicated entirely to grandparents sharing their experiences/fears around raising grandchildren and, of course, dedicated family law attorneys who can help sort out legal issues concerning custody.

If you are a grandparent who would like to learn more about securing custody of your grandchildren or basic visitation rights, please visit our website.

Source: CNN, "Grandparents step up, save families," Allie Torgan, July 25, 2013

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