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State of Grandfamilies in America: 2016
Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic: Solutions and Supports for Grandfamilies

Generations United © 2016

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With the rise in heroin and other opioid use, more relatives are raising children because the parents have died, are incarcerated, are using drugs, are in treatment or are otherwise unable to care for their children, according to the report.

After years of decline, the numbers of children in foster care are increasing. Experts say the opioid epidemic is responsible for this trend.

Alcohol and drug use are the most common reasons for removing children from their homes, next to neglect. More than 1/3 of all children placed in foster care because of parental alcohol or drug use are placed with relatives.

The percentage of children in foster care with relatives has increased from 24% in 2008 to 29% in 2014. The vast majority of children being raised by relatives are being cared for in grandfamilies outside of the foster care system. For every child in foster care with relatives, there are 20 children being raised by grandparents or other relatives outside of the formal foster care system.

For generations, substance use – including opioids, crack cocaine, meth, and alcohol – have led grandparents and other relatives across races, ethnicities and geographic areas to step in to care for children. The opioid epidemic is the next chapter in this narrative that demonstrates a need to better support these grandfamilies so the children in their care can flourish.

The report offers recommendations to help guide the development of supportive federal and state policies and services for grandfamilies. They include:
  • Reforming federal child welfare to prevent children from entering or re-entering foster care
  • Ensuring children in foster care are placed with families, prioritizing placements with relatives when possible and providing the supports they need to care for the children
  • Making sure grandfamilies get the full range of legal and financial options, information, assistance and support they need to help the children thrive 
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