Video: Upsurge in grandparent-headed families

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/3/2005 8:06:28 PM ET 2005-11-04T01:06:28

In retirement, Ted and Armande Marker planned to spend some time with their grandkids — but not this much. With five grown kids, the Markers, both in their 50s, are back to pigtails and sippy cups, parenting their grandchildren.

“We had planned to be traveling and going to our kids’ graduations and stuff like that,” says Armande Marker. “Instead, we’re worried about pre-school starting.”

The Markers have custody of 3-year-old Will and 2-year-old Sydney. Their daughter, an ex-con with a history of drug abuse, is out of the picture.

The kids, like a lot of kids around the country, are often confused.

“Mosat cases it is better if they can be with a grandparent or another relative, because at least the family ties is there and their connection with their birth parent is there,” says family social worker Angie Grindon.

“It can be financially devastating for these grandparents,” says Amy Goyer of the American Association of Retired Persons. “Many of them are plunged into poverty.”

When Lillie Gray’s daughter died over the summer, her 2-year-old and 6-year-old grandsons moved in. Gray lost her job as a truck driver. Then, without a paycheck, she couldn’t make her mortgage. Now, she and the kids are in a tiny one-bedroom. Her new life, at age 54, is helping with homework and changing diapers.

Lillie Gray says her grandson, Kinandre, “tells me all the time, ‘Grandma, I love you so much.’ I can’t walk away from that.”

For grandparents, despite the hardships, there are golden moments. For the kids, experts say family care trumps foster care, regardless of the reason.

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