Across the U.S., about 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for the basic needs of live-in grandchildren, according to the Census Bureau -- up from 2.5 million five years ago. In Utah, about 20,000 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren.
"I think we're seeing more kids that need their grandparents' help," said Jean Marie Morris, Northern Region Kinship Supervisor for Utah's Department of Child and Family Services.
The reasons are numerous, from substance abuse, neglect, domestic violence, mental health issues, lack of parenting skills, and teen pregnancy, to death, job loss, homelessness and military deployments.
"We have more laws in place that say, in the state of Utah and other states around us, you (must involve) grandparents and other family members," said Morris. "We have been mandated to make them more a part of the family team, and place children there when we can."
For some, it's temporary; for others, it's a permanent life change.
Some grandparents simply move their grandchildren into their home and start taking care of them.
Laurie Favero, manager of the Utah Caregivers Support program for Weber and Morgan counties, recommends making it legal.
"If grandparents raising those kids don't get guardianship, if something happened to the child, they've got no say in it," she said.
There is some help available at different levels of care, through the Division of Child and Family Services and the Department of Workforce Services.
"I talk to people about three phases," said Morris. "In the preliminary placement phase, if they need them, they can get services from DWS so they're (the children) covered with Medicaid."
There's also financial assistance, the Specified Relative Grant, through the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Funds are for relatives to care for the child of absent parents. The Office of Recovery Services will try collecting child support from the child's parents.
At DWS, caregivers may also apply for food stamps or other programs.
The second phase is the option to become a licensed foster-care provider for the grandchild, through DCFS. The foster-care subsidy is larger than the Specified Relative Grant, but there are home studies and safety inspections, background checks, and classes required to qualify.
The third phase is adoption.
"Most people don't qualify for adoption subsidy," said Morris, adding, however, some children qualify for programs based on mental and physical health issues.
For more information, consult these agencies and resources:
* Utah Department of Workforce Services, https://jobs.utah.gov/
* Utah Division of Child & Family Services (DCFS), www.hsdcfs.utah.gov/
* Children's Service Society of Utah, www.cssutah.org.
* Utah Foster Care Foundation, www.utahfostercare.org/
* Utah Department of Human Services, http://www.hsdaas.utah.gov.
* Utah Association of Family Support Centers, http://utahfamilysupport.org/
* "Navigating Your Rights: The Utah Legal Guide for Those 55 and Over," a Utah Department of Human Services Division of Aging and Adult Services online guide, explains several types of guardianship possible. http://legalguide55.utah.gov/