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Grandfathers raising more kids, complicated by child custody laws

Single mothers still lead the statistics households in which one adult is raising one or more children on their own. However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that a growing trend in single parenting is emerging: An increasing number of grandfathers have taken the role of primary caregiver to their own grandchildren.

While the reasons for this trend in family structure are as varied as the families themselves, more grandfathers are stepping up and raising a second generation of kids in Colorado and across the nation, even when they often have no formal child custody rights.

A spokesman for the National Fatherhood Initiative, a group that promotes the benefits of fathers being involved in the lives of their children, believes that the trend may be the result of more awareness of the need for male role models. Court systems across the country may be following that trend, placing more kids in the care of their grandfathers when the parents are unwilling or unable to provide a fit home. A stunted economy may also be a factor, with many parents unable to care for their kids turning to their own parents who may have already established a career.

Kids who are raised by their grandfathers acknowledge that there are differences, mostly based on age and physical stamina. They also realize the sacrifices that their grandfathers make to provide for them, at a time in their lives when many grandparents are on a fixed income. As for the grandfathers themselves, many say that raising their grandkids keeps them feeling young, and gives them a true sense of purpose.

Single grandfathers face the same legal complexities as any caregiver who is not a biological parent. Raising a child leads to a level of bonding and love that is every bit as real as one would feel with their own child. However, in the absence of any form of legal child custody, the caregiver faces losing the child if one or both of the biological parents make the decision to take their child back into their own home. When possible, a mutually agreeable form of guardianship or custody should be reached, and established legally. When that level of cooperation is not possible, the caregiver may consider asking the Colorado courts to intervene and grant custody according to the best interests of the children involved.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "More grandpas take on the role of single parent," Eric Adler, June 16, 2012

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