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Grandparents as guardians: a rising trend

Grandparents are often the unsung heroes in extended families. Whether it's picking up a child from school when parents are stuck at work, coming over while the kids are asleep so parents can have a date night, or giving youngsters a piece of candy or some money when their parents aren't looking, grandparents often do a lot for their families that doesn't always get recognized.

However, grandparents are sometimes needed to step in and take an active role -- one that is recognized by a court. When parents are unable or unwilling to care for their children, grandparents are increasingly stepping in to fill their shoes, often as their legal guardians.

Guardianships are not exclusively used for children, of course. Adults might also be the subject of a guardianship if they are unable to handle their affairs. But grandparents may feel they are a natural choice to raise their grandchildren, and more and more of them in the U.S. are doing so.

Since 2007, the number of grandparents who are raising their grandkids has risen by 7 percent; the total is nearing 3 million. Unfortunately, many of these caretakers are at a point in their lives where their income is not big enough to take on another household resident. In fact, about 20 percent of these grandparents are below the poverty line. In addition, about 25 percent of grandparents who are raising a grandchild have a disability.

In Georgia, grandparents raising children can get a monthly subsidy from the state, but getting access to it can be difficult -- particularly for older people who may not know where to turn for that kind of help.

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