According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recent Census Bureau data, the number of children in the United States being raised by their grandparents rose sharply as the recession began. In all, approximately 7 million children live in households that include at least one grandparent. Of that number, 2.9 million are being raised primarily by their grandparents, a number up 16 percent from 2000, with a 6 percent surge from 2007 to 2008.
There are many reasons why grandparents are taking over child raising duties. Grandparents frequently report taking over when a single parent becomes overwhelmed with financial problems, is incarcerated, becomes ill, succumbs to substance abuse, or dies. High rates of divorce and teenage pregnancy as well as long overseas military deployments also factor into the increased dependence on grandparents.
According to the Pew Center, 34 percent of grandparent caregivers are unmarried, and 62 percent are women. Child-rearing by grandparents also varies by race, but the sharp rise in grandparent caregiving from 2007 to 2008 was among whites. However, overall, 53 percent of grandparent caregivers are white, 24 percent are black, and 18 percent are Hispanic.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that many children living with grandparents enter the arrangement with preexisting problems stemming from abuse, neglect, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, and loss of their parents. Grandparents in this situation are advised to seek support and assistance from other family members, clergy, social agencies and mental health professionals.