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2.9 million grandparents are primary caregivers

Throughout the United States, there are approximately 2.9 million grandparents who have accepted the role of primary caregiver for their grandchildren. That number has significantly increased in the recent past, jumping 12 percent in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010. 

Grandparents have stepped into the role after their own sons and daughters were unable to care for their children. This may be due to the recession, drug or alcohol abuse, or even unexpected tragedies. According to AARP's designated grandparenting expert, Amy Goyer, "Most of these grandparents are not doing this with guardianship or custody -- most are doing it informally." 

According to experts like Goyer, despite the very rewarding aspects of the job, it can be very difficult. Taking on the physical and financial responsibilities at retirement age is very taxing. Goyer noted that grandparents are often unaware of the assistance programs that provide relief for both of these types of stress. 

For instance, Temporary Aid to Needy Families is a federally funded program that provides guardians with some additional funds. Goyer does admit that the programs are limited. One guardian noted that she thinks "more grandparents would do this -- and more children would be kept out of foster care -- if not for the financial burden."

Despite these stresses, she said that "when you see the smiles on their faces, when you see them laugh, when they run to you for help or crawl into the bed with us at 1 or 2 in the morning -- well, you can't beat that kind of love. If they were taken away now, it would break our hearts." 

Grandparents in Texas who are primary caregivers and want to protect that precious relationship should consult with an attorney. There are ways to help safeguard the relationship.

Source: Post Bulletin, "Grandparents raising grandkids describe joy, isolation," Kate Santich, Oct. 22, 2014

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