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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

If you are just starting to care for a grandchild, these are the basic things you need to know

En español | If you are raising a grandchild or another relative’s child, you are not alone. Millions of grandparents and other relatives are raising children.

The Guide for GrandFamilies can help you find your way with tips, tools and resources to the services and support you need to take care of yourself and your family.


The needs of children can seem overwhelming, especially if you are unexpectedly thrust into the role of being their primary caregiver. First, focus on the basic needs, such as finding a safe place for the child to sleep; providing him with food, clothing, and any medication he might need; and getting the right kind of equipment, such as a stroller, car seat and crib.  If he’s older, get as much information as you can about his school and other activities he might be involved in.

What documents do I need?

Make a binder or folder where you keep all of these important papers so you can easily find them when you need them.  You should have:

  • Birth certificates, death certificates (if your grandchild’s parent is deceased), marriage records or divorce decrees for their parents
  • Social Security cards (or at least the numbers) for the children
  • Medical and dental records
  • Power of Attorney, custody, guardianship, adoption or other legal papers
  • Consent forms signed by parents for medical care and education
  • School papers, such as report cards, evaluations, registration, etc.
  • Proof of your grandchild’s income and assets (child support payments, trust fund, etc.)
  • Proof of your income and assets (if you apply for public benefits, you’ll need these)
  • Citizenship papers for you or for your grandchildren
  • Military papers for you or their parents

Who do I need to talk to?

Talk with the key people in your grandchildren's lives, such as teachers, pediatricians, school social workers, and any lawyers or child welfare professionals who have been involved with your grandchild. These are some questions you may want to ask:

  • What do I need to know about my grandchild's care and support?
  • Do you have any resource materials to help me raise my grandchild?
  • Do you have any classes or online training that will help me?
  • What services do you offer for my grandchild?
  • Is there any money to help me with the unplanned expenses of raising my grandchild?
  • What are the schedules I need to know about (for health care, school work, legal deadlines)?
  • Who else should I talk to who can help me and/or my grandchild?

What phone numbers I do I need?

You should also make a phone list of all the local people and agencies you will work with as you raise your grandchild.  Keep this list in your notebook or folder, and post a copy near your phone. Include:

  • Emergency numbers (911, poison control, etc.)
  • Grandparent support groups and resource centers
  • Family members and friends who can help
  • School, child care or preschool
  • Doctors
  • Dentist
  • Counselors, social workers, therapists
  • Babysitters or respite care
  • Before/After school programs
  • Youth activity programs (YMCA, YWCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Scouts, mentoring programs etc.)
  • Community organizations such as community centers and faith-based organizations
  • Children’s services or child welfare office
  • Area Agency on Aging

How can I keep track of everything?

Just do one thing at a time – and keep good notes about who you talk to and what they say.  You may need to go back to your notes when you are seeking help for your grandchildren.  Having good, accurate notes will also help you track your progress.  Good notes are very helpful when it comes to legal issues.

Get a notebook or a binder and label the cover clearly with the date of the first entry in the notebook.  When that notebook is full, mark the date of the last note on the cover as well.  Every time you talk to someone about your grandchild, write down:

  • The date
  • The name of the person
  • The person’s title and/or relationship to your grandchild (i.e. teacher, case worker, parent, etc.)
  • The person’s contact information (phone number, address, email address, etc.)
  • The general topic you talked about (school, illness, money, legal, mental health etc.)
  • Specific notes about your conversation
  • Next steps or “to do” list for follow up after the conversation

Next: Grand Families Guide: Find Support.»