The Challenges and Joys for Grandparents Raising Grandkids

Grandparents, who are unexpectedly caring for grandchildren, face a number of legal and financial obstacles. It's essential they seek out support.

Grandparents playing with a grandson on a beach.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whenever Christy C. mentions the two grandchildren who live with her, she bursts with pride. Her 11-year-old granddaughter is a competitive cheerleader constantly tumbling around the house. Christy’s grandson, who is 12, is an “absolute baseball maniac” and plays in an advanced league for his age, she says. Christy’s full name has been withheld to protect the family’s privacy.

Christy and her husband have been raising their grandkids for more than a decade. The couple took the children in after their adopted daughter, who suffers from mental illness, gave birth to them as a teenager. Christy, 68, of Hamden, Conn., says the arrangement has brought much joy to her life, but the responsibility has also taken a toll. “They call me grandmommy,” Christy says. “I’m their grandma and their mommy in one bundle.”

It has become an all-too-common scenario. The number of children in their grandparents’ care doubled from 1970 to 2010. It can be difficult for these caregivers to find legal, financial and emotional support. “Economically, it is really challenging. The grandparents are retired and weren’t financially prepared for this,” says Rachel Dunifon, a professor of policy analysis and management and dean of Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology (opens in new tab). But the amount of love in these families is incredible, she says. “There is a huge amount of appreciation for each other.”

Senior Retirement Editor, Kiplinger.com

Jackie Stewart is the senior retirement editor for Kiplinger.com and the senior editor for Kiplinger's Retirement Report.