From Addiction Professional By Gary A. Enos, Editor: Repeating a pattern that has tended to emerge in periods of widespread drug crisis, sudden increases in the number of children in foster care are being attributed to the surge in opioid abuse. A new report urges policy leaders to address the needs of children being raised by non-parent relatives as a result of parental substance use, whether within or outside the foster care system.
Generations United's Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic: Solutions and Support for Grandfamilies reinforces the research-backed point that children raised by grandparents or other relatives can have good outcomes, but that both the child and the caregiver need significant support. When a parent cannot fulfill the parenting role because of an addiction, and a grandparent steps in, both the child and the grandparent will experience mental health needs that will have to be addressed.
“Both will be experiencing loss,” Generations United executive director Donna Butts tells Addiction Professional. As the report states, “Caregivers may suffer from their own mental health issues, stemming from feelings of shame, loss or guilt about their adult child's inability to parent due to their substance use disorder.”
A look at the numbers
The overall number of U.S. children in foster care has begun to increase after years of decline, and experts are citing the opioid epidemic as the primary cause, the report states. Grandfamilies, in which a grandparent assumes primary responsibility to raise a child, tend to form first and foremost because of parental substance use, according to the report.
Learn more: Addiction's Unsung Heroes: Grandparents