There is a growing trend in New Jersey and around the nation that has grandparents raising their grandchildren on a full-time basis. Grandparents often get involved in child custody because their adult children are unable to take care of their own offspring. It can be a challenging and often unexpected turn of events, but it can be make easier if the grandparents take steps to ensure they have the documentation and support needed to be successful.

U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that the trend is growing and has, in fact, doubled between 2000 and 2010. Family situations that keep the biological parents from being able to care for their children full-time include military service, death, substance abuse and mental health issues. In general, state social service departments prefer to place children with family members or close friends, which may, in part, explain the growing number of grandparents raising a new generation.

The good news is federal, state, local government and private groups are tying to offer help. There are programs that fill backpacks with school supplies, workshops that focus on parenting and building strong relationships, and tips on how to deal with disruptions in relationships with the children’s biological parents. The AARP Grandfamilies Guide helps with finance, education, and child care.

More and more grandparents who were planning retirement are finding themselves raising their grandchildren. It’s not an easy task, but it can be made easier by careful planning and taking advantage of government and private services. Grandparents need to make sure they have custody orders, birth certificates and medical records, so they can apply for any government benefits the children may be qualified to receive. Possession of the correct documents also makes it easier to enroll the children in school.

Source: Deseret News, “At granny’s house: More children raised by grandparents than before“, Lois M. Collins, August 05, 2014