More Grandparents Taking Role Of Full Time Parent

"I was a little scared," says Lois McCloud. "Am I too old? Am I going to have the patience that it's going to take for a 3 year old everyday, every night?"

For the past 6 years, Lois has been asking herself those questions. Her granddaughter, Quinesia and her have been inseparable. Life changed when Quinesia's mom became very ill. "She couldn't function, not even to take care of herself so I had to become a mom."

Having already raised her own children, Lois wasn't ready for the new challenge. And Lois isn't alone. Recent census figures show that nearly 6 million grandparents live with their grandchildren, half of which are responsible for the child's needs, financially and emotionally.

Charlotte Parks is part of that growing number. She's been taking care of Mikey since he was three.  He's now 21. "All through the years when I will say something about Mikey and she'll (her daughter Tina) will say 'Well, he's yours'," she recalls. "We have an understanding that even though she's the real mom, I'm the mother."

A closeness she wouldn't give up for anything, even though it meant giving up her golden years. For grandmothers like Charlotte and Lois--taking on their grandchildren is something they just had to do.

"If my children cannot take care of there children," says Lois. "Then I have to do it. It's a natural process."

Percentages of grandparents taking the parenting role were highest in the South and rural counties and lowest in the northeast, California and Hawaii.