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More grandparents are taking over custody of grandchildren

The last few years have seen a rise in the number of so-called "grandfamilies" across the United States. Grandfamilies are defined as nontraditional households in which grandparents are full-time guardians and caretakers of their grandchildren. In some of these scenarios, grandparents have temporary or permanent child custody of their grandchildren.

This multigenerational parenting can arise from any number of situations from parents who are incarcerated or addicted to drugs or alcohol, to parents who have died or been deployed in the military. Many parents view their own parents - the child's grandparents - as the most obvious and best choice to take over parenting responsibilities while they are unable to. One Ohio psychologist, however, says that there could be some drawback to this in the long run for the grandparents.

If parents are never able to regain custody of their children, it could pose problems for the children. The Ohio psychologist and gerontologist says it is impossible to ensure that a child's grandparents will be around for their entire adolescent lives. Others say many grandparents, who imagined their retirements being a little slower paced, find it difficult to be a full-time parent for a second time. Many are older and don't have the same energy level as they did when they were raising their own children.

A Cleveland professor also found that many grandparents who are raising their grandchildren have serious worries about the situation they are in. She says that many grandparents she has studied have strong concerns not only for their grandchildren, but for their own children who, for one reason or another, are unable to take care of their kids.

While most parents hope to always have custody of their children, sometimes it is not in the child's best interest. For Ohio grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren, it may be encouraging to know that there are support groups and government aid available to provide assistance along the way.

Source: USA TODAY, "More grandparents taking on a second round of parenting," Sharon Jayson, July 27, 2011

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