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Finances tight for grandparents raising grandchildren

When divorce threatens their grandchildren’s best interests, Virginia grandparents are often willing to step up to serve as primary caregivers. These grandparents may face financial strain both during and after the battle for custody.

According to PBS, grandparents take over as parents for numerous reasons, including parental mental health issues, substance addictions, military deployment or incarceration. This arrangement provides homes for children who would otherwise end up in the foster care system. However, roughly one-fifth of the 2.7 million U.S. grandparents now acting as primary caregivers for their grandchildren are living below the poverty threshold.

These grandparents may draw down their retirement finances or return to work to support their grandchildren, according to Forbes. Caregiving grandparents are not only more likely to fall below the poverty line but also are more likely to be disabled or have at least a part-time job in comparison with grandparents who are not providing parental care to grandchildren.

In seeking custody of their grandchildren, grandparents often face steep legal fees. Thereafter, they must provide for the children and start saving for college on limited or fixed incomes. Those who choose to return to work may have difficulty finding jobs and may seek to make ends meet via alternative strategies, such as mortgaging their houses.

There is a lack of comprehensive national legislation regarding support for grandparents raising grandchildren. Some states, however, have instituted laws to help these grandparents. Participating in programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can help grandparents provide for their grandchildren when funds are low. 

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