Opioid Crisis Leaves Grandparents Taking On the Role of Parents

Posted on November 29th, 2019

According to recent congressional estimates, approximately 2.5 million grandparents have found themselves back in the role of primary caregiver because of the opioid crisis. “Drugs or alcohol are now implicated in 37.4 percent of child transfers out of parental care, up from 25.4 percent in 2009,” explains a November 11th article in the Harvard Political Review.

In Pennsylvania, it is estimated that 10 individuals will succumb to an overdose a day. Though it’s hard to determine exactly how many leave behind children who then fall into custody of grandparents, the facts remain the same–the opioid epidemic becomes a family crisis.

Generations United offers advice and support to those families torn apart by addiction and to those now seeking custody or who have custody of the children. In the 2018 update to the “Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic: Solutions and Support for Grandfamilies,” key findings included:

  • More than 1/3 of all children placed in foster care because of parental alcohol or drug use are placed with relatives.
  • 2.6 million children are being raised in grandfamilies or kinship care with no birth parents in the home.
  • 32 percent of children in foster care are being raised by relatives.

Services do exist to aid grandparents in this difficult transition including but not limited to:

  • Family First Prevention Services Act: “The bill aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skill training.”
  • National Family Caregiver Support Program: The program was established in 2000 and offers services to family caregivers as well as additional resources for grandparents raising grandchildren.

While the wellbeing of the children involved is the main priority, pre-existing circumstances are also likely for the grandparents who assume custody. GrandFamilies.org explains that:

  • 88,726 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren who live in their home with them;
  • 32.5% do not have parents present;
  • 58.3% of those grandparents are in the workforce; and
  •  20.2% are in poverty.

In the state of Pennsylvania, grandparents can also request physical or legal custody of a child if they already have legal status that allows them to act as the child’s parent, or under other specified circumstances, including:

  • The child is a dependent child.
  • The child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity.
  • The child has resided with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents. In these cases, the grandparents’ actions must be filed within six months.

Are you a grandparent looking for support due to the Opioid Crisis? Contact Kalinoski Law Offices P.C. today

There are laws in place to help grandparents assume custody of their grandchildren. Here at Kalinoski Law Offices P.C., we represent grandparents throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania who want to spend time with their grandchildren, as well as those who have grandchildren who are substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol issues.

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Craig Kalinoski
Craig Kalinoski

Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.


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