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Multi-generational households used to be the norm a few generations ago. But for many years nuclear families have been expected to stand on their own, and most did.
Such independence and separation was considered a virtue. But the times are changing again.
More grandchildren are living with their grandparents. And the number being raised wholly or partially by their grandparents has also been increasing.
The 2009 Pew Research survey reported that 39 percent of grandparents who are 65 years of age and older had been helping their children in caring for the grandkids during the previous twelve months.
As well, 50 percent had given money to their children over the previous year and 31 percent had been assisting their kids with running errands, repairs and housework.
Participants in the survey put a high value on being able to spend time with their grandchildren, with 29 percent of grandparents placing this family togetherness at the top of the list.
The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau reported that 7 percent of children under 18 live in homes headed by grandparents, a substantial increase from 10 years previously. Some factors may have contributed to this changing picture.
An increase in reports of substance abuse, mental illness and time in jail has rendered some parents unable to care for their children.
As well, since 2008, grandparents and other family members are being notified within 30 days of their grandchildren being removed from their parents' custody.
There are four types of custody grandparents can opt for. Temporary relative custody, guardianship, dependency, and adoption are different arrangements seeking to handle the childcare dilemma.
Temporary relative custody begins as temporary, and may or may not become something else later depending on circumstances. Legal Aid Societies are available in many areas got those for whom finances are a serious consideration.
Guardianship makes it possible for grandparents to be involved in legal decisions without parents having to give up parental rights permanently.
For a permanent situation, adoption is the way.