Nationwide, more than 2.6 million people are raising grand kids , according to census data. That number is rising rapidly as more parents are jailed, are forced into treatment centers or die from overdoses, according to testimony at a recent aging committee hearing.
The epidemic “is overwhelming many families and child welfare systems,” said Jaia Peterson Lent of Generations United, a Washington-based advocacy group cofounded by AARP, at a Special Committee on Aging hearing last March. “Suddenly [grandparents] are forced to navigate complex systems to help meet the … challenges of the children who come into their care, often after experiencing significant trauma.”
It’s become so common that for every child in foster care, 20 are being raised by a family member. This generosity saves the nation about $4 billion a year, according to the nonprofit Generations United.
“Throughout history, grandparents have stepped in to provide safe and secure homes to their grandchildren, replacing traumatic pasts with loving and hopeful futures. With so many parents struggling with addiction, grandparents are increasingly coming to the rescue and assuming this role. It is essential that we do all that we can to help these families,” said U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME).
Grandparents Have Tough Road in Raising Grandchildren
Raising grandchildren brings a large variety of issues to bear for grandparents – legal, financial, emotional, and more. Recognizing this, the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act (S. 1091) would create a federal task force charged with identifying and disseminating information designed to help grandparents raising grandchildren to navigate the school system, plan for their families’ future, address mental health issues for themselves and their grandchildren, and build social and support networks.
Hope for Reunification
While many of those going into addiction treatment have already lost their children to the child welfare system or to their parents, hope for reunification remains for many. At Wayside House, children can visit their mothers during Saturday family days and they can also take part in parenting programs at the addiction treatment center.
But, in the meantime, grandparents and other family members remain often-unseen victims of the opioid crisis and children are thrust into new family structures – some temporarily, others permanently.
Local Help for Grandparents
In Palm Beach County, grandparents and others raising grandchildren can get help and guidance through a variety of programs. If you need help with legal, financial, medical or other matters or would like to be part of a social support network, contact Families First of Palm Beach County’s Kin Support Project at 561-318-4224.
Getting Help at Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.