When couples’ children turn 18, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they are not done raising children. That doesn’t mean that they will have more kids themselves – but they could end up raising their children’s kids.

The practice is becoming more and more common. What defines a traditional family has been evolving. What would you do if one of your adult children couldn’t raise his or her own kids? If they run into financial, medical or mental health problems and need some help, who can step up?

According to the Huffington Post, the U.S. Census reports that over 2.6 million grandparents are raising 6 million grandchildren in the U.S. In addition, 1.5 million other children are being raised by relatives other than their parents or grandparents.

At times, grandparents don’t know how or don’t want to deal with the child welfare system. A lot of grandparents “unofficially” raise their grandchildren. And that’s not always easy.

Many grandparents have little income as it is, and if they do not go through legal channels they will likely get little help from support services. It can also interfere with retirement plans and present legal hardships. It could affect their own health and well-being.

According to the Huffington Post article, the Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008 set aside funding for kinship navigator programs. Such programs can help relative caregivers such as grandparents get legal and financial assistance, as well as access to respite care and food stamps.

The CWLA has even dubbed 2011 the “Year of the Grandparent: Keeping Kin Connected” in an effort to show the effectiveness of raising relatives over having children enter the foster care system.

Source: Huffington Post, “Grand-Parenthood,” Christine James-Brown, Sept. 8, 2011