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Grandparent holding grandchild hand

Exploring Legal Options - Tips for Grandfamilies Learning Lesson

Key Issues

In the United States, there are 4.9 million children under the age of 18 living in grandparent-headed households (AARP, 2011). This is an increase from 4.5 million children just 10 years ago. Of these children, approximately 20 percent do not have a parent present in the home (AARP, 2011). As a result, grandparents are responsible for children’s basic needs (e.g., safe and secure home, food, clothing, etc.). In addition to providing for grandchildren’s basic needs, grandparents might find establishing legal custody, guardianship, and/or adoption worth pursuing. Before grandparents decide to explore legal options, they should consider a few important items. This program was created with that in mind.

Grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren do so for a variety of reasons, including parental incarceration, financial problems, substance abuse, death, mental or physical health problems, and teen pregnancy. Typically, there is more than one reason why grandparents take over the parenting role. In addition to family crises, some grandparents are parenting their grandchildren because one or both parents are deployed in the military.

Many grandparents who parent a second time around do so informally without a legal agreement. However, the following information may be of assistance to those who want to become foster or adoptive parents through their state's child and family services offices and to those who are pursuing custody, guardianship, or private adoption. The information provided in these videos should not be used in place of seeking legal counsel. It is important to consult an attorney to discuss your particular situation.