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Grandparents stepping in as parents as drug crisis escalates

The number of children being raised by grandparents has dramatically increased over the past decade, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. One reason behind this increase is due to increased substance abuse by parents which results in children being removed from their parents. In Georgia, children are more likely to be taken on by relatives rather than the foster care system to avoid disruption in the child’s routine.

Forty percent of children under DFCS care are placed with relatives in Georgia

According to Chronicle Publisher Daniel Heimpel, approximately thirty percent of family caregivers are not given the same level of support as unrelated caregivers. Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) will often place children with a grandparent or relative, yet the caregiver is unable to obtain additional resources to assist in the cost of care for the children because they are not licensed foster parents. This can create additional strain on an aging parent’s financial resources.

Becoming a licensed foster parent

If you are one of those grandparents, you should explore your options. One option is to become a licensed foster parent. Licensure would grant you access to various resources, including medical care assistance, a daily stipend, and clothing allowance. It also includes training on ways to deal with children who have suffered abuse or neglect.  

Adoption

Adoption is another option for caregivers. If the child was in DFCS custody, there is an adoption assistance program offered by the state of Georgia, which includes financial assistance if certain criteria is met and the applicant is approved for the program prior to the adoption process. Under state statute § 19-8-7 (a), blood relatives may adopt a child, when a parent surrenders their parental rights. When a child’s circumstances meet the legal definition of abandonment, then a court may find that the parent forfeited their rights. When the child is 14 years old or older, then the child’s consent is required. O.C.G.A. § 19-8-7 (b). There are also age and residency requirements under the law that must be met. O.C.G.A. § 19-8-3.

Regardless of the option that you choose, there are resources to help relatives caring for children, and an attorney familiar with the process can help you sort it out and make sense of the requirements in order to adopt your grandchild.

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