Our firm's cases involving parents with grandparents and grandparents' rights as regards their grandchildren have been increasing. This appears to be a nationwide trend. There seems to be a number of demographic and cultural reasons for this:
- The extraordinary growth of single parent families over the past two decades. Only 69% of children in the U.S. are raised in two parent families. This places a significant emotional and financial burden on those parents, who often seek help from their parents. That help can range from simply babysitting or extra cash on the one hand to temporary, or even permanent, custody on the other hand.
- The opioid crisis has affected both single and two parent families. Addiction to painkillers and drugs such as heroin and fentanyl has left many children in precarious situations. Addiction has lead to incarceration of parents and, in too many cases, death. According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths in the United States have more than tripled from 1999 to 2015, and often leave children parentless. Grandparents get involved to try to help their children with rehabilitation, attorney's fees, bail, or whatever they can do to try to rescue their children. When those efforts fail, grandparents often step in to try to keep their grandchildren from entering state protective service and foster care. It is estimated nearly 3 million grandparents are raising one or more of their grandchildren in the United States.
- The Great Recession of 2008-2009 left many families homeless and/or deeply in debt. The simultaneous loss of high paying manufacturing jobs added to the burden of these struggling families. Families also lost health insurance associated with their previous employment, leaving them and their children without coverage. Grandparents often offered to take their grandchildren in their homes, if only on a temporary basis while their children struggled to recover.
- The so-called Baby Boomer cohort began to retire. Some worked for their entire careers with one company and had defined benefit pensions to complement social security. Dramatic advances in medical technology extended lifetimes, while improving the quality of life. Some grandparents felt they had the ability and resources to provide for their grandchildren, if the need arose. However, data suggests over half of these grandparents, who are disproportionately minorities, have incomes significantly below the U.S. median income of approximately $60,000 in 2017, with many at poverty levels.
In subsequent blogs, we will talk about how the law regards grandparents right, important Supreme Court rulings, Texas law, and what is happening in other states around the country to address this growing problem.