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More grandparents stepping into parent role

The number of children under the age of 18 being raised in households headed by a grandparent rose from 4.5 to 4.9 million between 2001 and 2011, according to the Department of Human Services & Family Health at the University of Colorado. For approximately 20 percent of these children, there is no parent living in the home. One or more grandparents in these situations are shouldering the responsibility for caring for grandchildren on their own.

Many grandparents take on the role of caregiver unofficially. They may agree to accept the responsibility while one or both parents face any of the following circumstances:

  •        Incarceration
  •        Financial problems
  •        Substance abuse issues
  •        Impaired physical or mental health
  •        Military deployment

In Colorado, more than 35,000 grandparents are caring for their grandchildren, according to a report by the Colorado Bar Association. Naturally, situations arise in which grandparents require some authority to make decisions about things such as health care and education. A power of attorney may grant grandparents the right to act on behalf of their grandparents in matters relating to things such as health care and school. Typically, such power of attorney lasts for a period of one year.

Colorado law states that when families are intact and the courts have not been and are not involved in protecting the best interests of a child, grandparents may not sue for visitation or custody. However, when a parent has died, or when the parents do not live with the children, grandparents may choose to step in to fill the parenting role, and petition to step up to legal guardianship.

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