Grandparents gain child custody in the opioid epidemic

Across the nation, 2.6 million grandparents have assumed the role of parent and are raising their grandchildren. Studies show that older relatives are stepping up to the plate to become primary caregivers, and the number of "grandfamilies" has shown a steady increase of 7 percent in five years. Experts in Georgia and elsewhere say the reason many grandparents gain child custody is due to the opioid epidemic.

Many grandparents have no legal rights with their grandchildren, most having come to them in the middle of the night, dropped off by a parent. While they offer stability to these kids whose lives have bordered on chaotic, they cannot decide about medical care, school or vacations. It is estimated that for each child in foster care, there are 20 outside of foster care living with grandparents.

For unknown reasons, most grandparents are not licensed, foster-care providers. There is a stigma attached to having their homes monitored by caseworkers because of the strict housing standards. They may also worry about licensing requirements and failing criminal background checks. It leaves the majority on their own, managing finances and support the best they can.

The opioid epidemic is running rampant in Georgia and across the country. Children are often caught in the middle, and when parents can no longer care for their child, the responsibility often falls on the grandparents. The financial hardship and the day-to-day physical requirements can be overwhelming, and many are unaware of resources that could be available to them.  A child custody attorney with experience working with clients who are raising their grandchildren can answer questions and provide guidance that will protect the best interests of the child.

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