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Grandparents raising Grandchildren and Opioid Addiction

Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2023
With April being the month that brings awareness to child abuse, addiction, sexual abuse, stress and counseling (mental health) we also thought it would be a great month to touch base on something that not many are talking about: Grandparents raising their grandchildren. With the younger generation falling into so much legal issues and drug addiction issues, now, more than ever, grandparents are left to raise their grandchildren. And it's happening more than you think!

Here's some alarming statistics:
- An estimated 2.7 million grandparents in the United States are taking the lead in raising their grandchildren.
- More than 6.1 million children under 18 live in their grandparent's household.
- There is a 49% unemployment rate for grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren.
- Grandfathers have a 34% unemployment rate in households where they are supporting their grandchildren.
- The number of children being raised by their grandparents has been rising steadily for the past 40 years, doubling the amount households in 2010 when compared to 1970.
- Custodial grandchildren have higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems that children in the average US population.
- Families that have a grandparent raising a grandchild help to save taxpayers over $6 billion each year because they keep those kids out of the foster system.

(Resource here)

It seems that the reason the times are changing, and more grandparents are raising their grandchildren has been summed up into two reasons: COVID and the opioid crisis in America. Many children have been misplaced due to the outbreak of COVID and losing a parent that died of COVID. As for the opioid crisis, many children have lost their parents to addiction, incarceration and death. In fact, opioid overdose deaths have tripled in the past ten years! With that being said, almost all of these children would have ended up in foster care if it was not for a relative or grandparent taking them into their home.

(Did you know that former POTUS, Barak Obama, was raised by his grandparents?)

The Pew wrote a great article explaining a little into detail on what grandparents raising grandchildren look like.

It's not all fun and games, I can tell you from experience. As a parent, you want what is best for your own child. But at the same time, you also want what is best for your grandchildren. We have been battling an opioid addiction with our daughter, who recently started getting arrested for her crimes, and landing her son (our grandson) in foster care. We live over 600 miles away, and right now we are fighting to get our grandson home with us sooner than the expected time, next month. During the time while we are waiting, I have been doing some research on just how many grandparents are actually raising their grandchildren. And I had a talk with my own mother who had some opinions to what she would have done if I ever found myself needing her to raise my children. Given that opioids were not nearly as popular as they are now, it would have never been a problem. But the fact that 1.6 million people have had an opioid addiction this past year alone, it's becoming a big problem for addicts to stay clean for their children.

What does this mean?
Talk to your children about drugs. Stay active in their lives. Grown children are still adults and will choose to have the ability to do whatever they want, but they need to know there are consequences to their actions. Grandparents, if you see your child going down a slippery slope, do something. Contact your local child protective services, have the police do wellness checks and stand your ground. NEVER enable your child to do drugs and dump their children on you. It will develop a habit that will be hard to break. What we ended up doing in this situation because we were 600 miles away and she was estranged from us, is we contacted an attorney and had paperwork drawn up for when it was "go time". During the meantime, while they were trying to track her down, we contacted the local department of children's services, police and reached out to friends that may have had an idea where she was. And when it was go time, it was go time! We arrived in the child custody court a mere 18 hours after she was arrested and placed in jail and our grandson in foster care.
So if you want to be proactive, get proactive. Unfortunately, not all grandparents want to cash in on their retirement to raise grandkids, and that is understandable, after all, they have already raised their kids. What happens to the kids when nobody will take them? They end up in foster care - or sometimes a different next of kin will take them on and raise them!

Risks of Raising grandchildren for grandparents Unfortunatly when grandparents are raising their grandchildren, they often neglect their own needs, health and mental health.

What should you do if you are ever in this situation?
- If you yourself or know someone raising their grandchildren, try offering support. Maybe babysitting so they can have some kid-free adult time they planned thier whole lives for.
- Find a support group that deals with what the grandparents are going through. Connecting with people that are going through the same thing might not make you feel so alone.
- Stand your ground. Don't enable the (absent) parent by sending them money, bailing them out of jail, or allowing them to have unhealthy and toxic relationships with the children you are raising.
- Set boundries.
- Have a plan put in place. Is this grandparent going to be raising this child until they are 18,. or until the biological parent gets it together?
- Have some legal back up. Always, always have some kind of custody agreement written up for the sake of the child.
- Ask for financial support. Many state programs can help off-set the financial burden of raising a child unexpectedly.
- Talk to your doctor about your health, don't neglect it.
- Seek some counseling for your family and yourself.

Understanding why grandparents are raising their grandchildren opens the door for conversations you may have with your friends or family in the future. Odds are, if you know a lot of people, there's someone you know raising their grandchild. Being a supportive friend is key to helping everyone overcome what has been placed upon them. It's not for the weak at heart as I have been learning from a support group that I have recently joined - and there are SO MANY grandparents raising their grandchildren. Here's to you, grandparents!

Resources for Grandparents raising their grandchildren