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Grandparents use guardianship to care for grandchildren

Under the laws of most states, including those of Arkansas, a guardian is someone who holds the legal authority to make decisions for and on behalf of a child. If parents are not able to take care of their children for some reason, then guardians can be given responsibility to act as the children’s parents.

Not all parents can provide safe environments for their kids. The reasons are many. Some parents have trouble finding employment or have other financial troubles, some struggle with mental illness, some are addicted to drugs and alcohol and some cannot maintain homes free of violence or abuse. And sometimes parents become extremely ill or die. For these and other reasons, their children are then usually put into the care of others.

As a consequence, the number of guardianship cases has increased throughout the country over the last few decades.

In cases in which the grandchildren’s parents have died, courts will send the children to their closest relatives, which often means grandparents. According to some reports, approximately 4.9 million children now live with guardian grandparents.

Sometimes the arrangements are temporary — this is often the case with parents who must undergo long-term medical treatment, enter lengthy drug or alcohol recovery programs or are incarcerated for extended periods. In some cases, though, the arrangement can become permanent, such as when parents die.

Being older often makes these grandparents’ lives more difficult. In cases when the grandparents become too ill or frail to do the job, courts will intervene and make other arrangements for the children or find other relatives who can step in.

Establishing guardianship is a complex and sometimes lengthy process. It is usually best to understand all their legal options if people believe that a child is in danger.

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Source: Ledger Enquirer “Grandparents who raise their grandchildren struggle for support,” Alva James-Johnson, Mar. 8, 2014

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