Where to start? Why are so many grandparents stepping into raising their grandkids? Why are there no alternatives to foster care or kinship care? Specifically, grandparents often raise their grandchildren due to a combination of parental substance abuse, abuse and neglect, unemployment, incarceration, mental or physical illness, teenage pregnancy, child disability, divorce, military deployment, abandonment, and death. Grandparents have always been a source of respite but now more often they are taking on the parenting role.
What does this mean, or look like for a grandparent? It means putting your retirement on hold first and foremost or living on a fixed income. It means raising children all over again and all that goes along with parenting. It means paying for childcare, diapers, and bottles. It means potty training, discipline, school conferences, sports, and this list goes on. Add to this list that you may still have to deal with your adult child/parent of your grandchild and the complications of that.
What could be viable alternatives to foster care or asking our aging adult populations to start child-rearing all over again? What about open adoption with a loving family for your grandchild? What if more families were willing to adopt older children and also willing to keep the functional biological family in the child’s life?
What other services are available? If a social worker gets involved, counseling can be offered. Honestly, the system is pretty broken and foster care families are inundated with children and kinship care is at an all-time high.
In the matter of addiction, the impact on children is high. When children are being neglected due to parental substance abuse, developmental problems often arise, such as speech delays, malnutrition, and cognitivefunctioning issues. Parental drug use during pregnancy can result in birth defects, attachment problems, and drug-affected newborns.
The burden of the family issues is suffered by the children, followed by our foster care system, and now grandparents/kinship care. We need programs that are all-encompassing systems for the whole family. What about live-in therapy?
It is easy to understand why grandparents are a good solution for children in these situations. Having the biological family remaining in the child’s life is key for their understanding of their heritage, and the family is available to answer questions for the child. The grandparent also has a love for the adult child that is having hardships in life and can bridge the gap between the parents and child. However, this would also happen if adoptive parents were found and allowed the grandparents to remain in the grandparental role for the child. This solution could be a triple win, for the adoptive family, the child, and the biological family.
The drug epidemic in this country is undeniable, and it is impacting families worldwide. My hope is that we start thinking outside of the box for alternative solutions.