Addiction can disrupt the family dynamic, especially when a parent is the one who has the addiction. Addiction can alter a parent’s behavior such that it leads to child maltreatment, especially neglect. Children may enter the child welfare system because of a parent’s inability to care for them because of addiction, and parental overdose is a crisis situation that requires the children to be placed in a stable environment. Kinship care is the preferred foster placement as it helps to keep the continuity of the family and community for the children. Although aunts, uncles, and older adult siblings can provide a home for these children, it is often grandparents to whom this responsibility falls.
Grandparents have additional challenges to consider than other relatives or foster parents. Raising grandchildren is a huge, long-term responsibility that can have financial, emotional, and health impacts on the grandparent. Grandparents may also struggle with feelings of responsibility, shame, and anger over their child’s addiction, and grief if they have lost their child to overdose. These are serious concerns and you need to know you are not alone. Currently, in Ohio, there are almost 100,000 grandparents who are responsible for raising their grandchildren. AARP has compiled a State Fact Sheet for Grandfamilies that has data about Ohio grandfamilies and also has links for family, legal, educational, and financial support and resources. You can also finder information through the Federal Government’s website. Grandfamilies.org is another site that provides a wealth of legal information and legal support.
Support Groups for Grandparents/Grandfamilies
It is so important for grandparents to know they are not alone. Here are some of the support groups ready to help grandparents (and other family caregivers) navigate this new family dynamic.
- AARP: members can join an online support network and non-members have access to many articles about raising grandchildren
- Nar-Anon: provides a 12-step program for family and friends of people with addiction
- The Addict’s Parents United: An Ohio-based support system and advocacy group of parents helping each other navigate the family devastation of a child’s addiction
- SMART Recovery Family & Friends: a non-12-step program for family and friends of people with addiction
- Parents of Addicted Loved Ones: provides support through education of parents dealing with the addiction of a child
The Resources page provides additional links to information, services, and organizations.