California grandparents often need more than visitation rights

In California, as in states across the country, the role of the grandparent is changing. As more and more young adults contend with the economic and social challenges that face our country, the grandparents are more often placed in the role of sole care giver for one or more grandchildren. This switch from occasional visitation to full time care often requires more support: emotional, physical and financial, than many elderly individuals have to give.

In cases where a parent is in need of support, there are government and social agencies established to help supplement their needs and the needs of the children. However, grandparents who parent often are not eligible for these support avenues because there has not been a legal determination of custody or guardianship made. Many times, the parent is absent, or has been incarcerated or simply left without having made any formal arrangement for the children. 

In addition, grandparents often do not seek custody out of a sense of loyalty or hope for their child. To them, seeking legal custody has a kind of finality; a severing of the relationship between the child and parent. Many grandparents are reluctant to do this, and so they and children suffer the financial consequences. In California, some grandparents have applied for and been given formal kinship custody through the child welfare system which allows them to receive foster care payments.

As this trend continues, the support for elders who are raising their grandchildren will hopefully broaden to include more families who are in need. The Census Bureau estimates that the number of children in this country who are being raised by a grandparent has increased 64 percent in the past two decades. These grandparents need more than visitation rights; they need all the legal and social support they can get. Knowing what steps they can take to become eligible for assistance can be the best place to start.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "More and more, grandparents raising their grandkids," Anita Creamer, July 14, 2013

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