- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - Throughout the United States, an increasing number of grandparents are living with and taking care of their grandchildren. Local officials are beginning to take notice, especially in the aftermath of a 16-year-old being charged with the July 4 murder of his grandparents just outside St. Joseph.

“What I have seen is a huge increase over the last 15 years in the number of grandparents who are obtaining, seeking (and) obtaining guardianship of their grandchildren,” said Judge Daniel Kellogg.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 41 percent of grandparents living with grandchildren in Missouri are responsible for the well-being of the grandchild, and 36 percent of those grandparents live without the grandchild’s biological parents, the St. Joseph News-Press (http://bit.ly/1KZZRpw ) reported.

Kellogg said some reasons for absent parents are that they might be incarcerated, or dealing with substance abuse.

According to the Northwest Missouri Children’s Advocacy Center officials, communication between grandparent and grandchild could be affected by the living situation.

“There can be a gap, especially with the older children. Younger children seem to do better with grandparents,” said Joyce Estes, the center’s executive director. “As the children become older, that’s when the gap probably widens.”

With child safety aside, this increasing trend reveals a more depressing trend concerning parents.

“It’s not negative that these children are in a caring household,” Kellogg said. “It’s negative because if I’m making a finding that a parent - a natural parent - is unable, unwilling or unfit, obviously that’s a negative thing because that reflects poorly on our society and where we are headed.”

Even though grandparents are offering a safe home for children, caring for their grandchildren can take its toll.

“I had my grandson with me for several months … I was raising him,” Estes said. “It’s not easy. Grandparents are ready to retire and sit down and rest.”

“Grandparents want to be grandparents,” Kellogg said. “We all laugh about our grandparents spoiling us as kids, but grandparents want to have that role … (and) be the fun grandparents. When they are having to do this, they don’t get to enjoy that role.”

In the U.S., 2.7 million grandparents have primary responsibility for children under the age of 18.

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, http://www.newspressnow.com

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