In this blog, when we discuss child custody, it is usually in the context of parents getting divorced and determining whether they will share custody, or if one of them will get sole custody of the kids. But for millions of American children, neither parent is able or willing to care for them, so other relatives must step in.
This is especially true for grandparents, about 2.7 million of whom are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren, according to the Associated Press. More and more grandparents are taking custody of their grandchildren; the number of grandparents raising grandchildren has gone up 7 percent since 2009.
The trend reflects several societal issues, including drug addiction, incarceration and mental illness, that make parents unfit or unable to raise their kids. Unfortunately, many grandparents who open their homes to their grandchildren are struggling to make ends meet. About 20 percent of households headed by a grandparent have incomes below the poverty line. Around a quarter of these grandparents have a disability.
Generations United, a group that encourages relatives to take custody of children as an alternative to foster care, notes that many grandparents could use legal help and other support, but that for low-income households, such assistance is only available “in small pockets of the country,” leaving a lot of low-income grandparent-led households to fend for themselves.
For grandparents raising grandchildren in Seattle, it may be a good idea to turn an informal relationship into an official one, to protect the child from custody battles in the future. A family law attorney can help with this.