Many grandparents in Virginia and across the country are facing the challenging task of raising their grandchildren. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, it is becoming more common for grandparents to have custody of their grandchildren or to take care of them long-term. About 4.5 million children across the country are currently being cared for by their grandparents.

There are numerous reasons that a grandparent may have child custody. These can include:

  • Abuse, neglect or abandonment by the child’s parents
  • Substance abuse or alcoholism
  • One or both parents in jail
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Divorce
  • Death of a parent

It is also common for grandparents to take over if the parents have mental or physical illnesses and are unable to care for the children. Grandparent custody may be rewarding, but also difficult and stressful. Many seniors raising grandchildren are suffering from financial challenges. The children may have behavioral issues due to feeling rejected by their parents.

There are services that may help grandparents who are undergoing the challenges of raising their grandchildren. These may include attending family counseling or joining local support groups. Additionally, the Virginia Department for the Aging states that grandparent rights laws may give them access to public benefits, such as food stamps and WIC, even if they do not have legal custody. Non-custodial grandparents may also register a grandchild in school, but must provide proof that the child is living with them and not the parents.

For many grandparents, there is no greater joy than seeing their grandchildren grow up. Sometimes they must take on more responsibility than they had planned, but the services available exist to give them the best chance at succeeding.