Wednesday, August 2, 2017
WHO'S RAISING THE CHILDREN? Becoming a parent again because of the opioid epidemic.
Mary Nunley, of Cottonwood Heights, Utah is 73 and is raising her two great-granddaughters. The children survived emotional and psychological trauma. This includes witnessing a suicide attempt by their mother. Nunley said, "My granddaughter was involved with a lot of drugs and eventually became a heroin addict". In the late 2015, Nunley and her husband became the legal guardians of their great-grandkids. "We knew somebody had to stand up for those children", she added. But her husband died in February of this year. This reduced Nunley's Social Security check from just over $1000 a month for the couple to $781 for her. As a caregiver's stipend, Utah does provide $399 a month. Nunlet explains, "That helps. It buys shoes and a ticket to the movies now and then". The strain of parenting school-age children while in her 70s can be exhausting, she admits. She goes on to say, "You do it because you love them and you want them to have a good life". Jaia Peterson Lent, of Generations United, a Washington-based advocacy group said. the epidemic "is overwhelming many families and child welfare systems". She testified this at a Special Committee on Aging hearing. She also said, "Suddenly grandparents are forced to navigate complex systems to help meet the challenges of the children who come into their care, often after experiencing significant trauma". Senator Bob Casey(D-Pa.), who is the ranking Democrat on the Special Committee on Aging said, in Pennsylvania, "103,000 children are in the care of grandparents or other relatives. Experts point to opioids as a major driver of the growth of that number". About 8% of babies in Maine are born to women who are addicted to opioids and other drugs. This is according to Sen. Susan Collins(R-Maine). She chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of children raised solely by grandparents in that state rose 24%. According to census data, more than 2.6 million people are raising grandkids nationwide. That number is rising due to more parents being jailed, more forced into treatment centers or dying from overdoses. This was from testimony at a recent hearing. 10% of grant money from the National Caregiver Support Program goes to people caring for grandchildren. "That's a very small amount in most states", Donna Butts, the executive director of Generated United, admits. Another federal program is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This program gives grants to states to help families be self-sufficient. Butts said, "It's a complicated issue, but at the federal level there really isn't a lot of help for grandparents". In May, Senators Casey and Collins introduced a bill that would assemble a task force to find ways to help people raising family member's children. There are few options now for those looking for financial assistance.