Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Kids of the Heroin Epidemic

Today is Day eleven of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge and the day for the letter K. Today's post is about the kids of this crisis. 

This generation of children is facing something that none of us will ever know. It saddens me to say that my own grandchildren are now part of the statistical numbers of children affected by addiction.

There is a word entering the vocabulary during this epidemic in this country. That word is called, "grand-parenting". It's not really a new word. Grandparents have taken on the role of caregivers and parents in this country since time began. Today, however, it is happening more than ever with this heroin and the opioid crisis in our country.

Foster systems in this country are now being pushed to the max more than ever. Children are being
removed from homes of parents who use drugs at higher rates than ever in this crisis due to neglect. More babies than ever recorded are born into addiction because their mothers used heroin and other drugs while they carried them.

More children than recorded in this country and here in Martinsburg and Berkeley County in West Virginia are orphans due to increasing rate of death due to overdose and this addiction. This is more than any orphans of any war in our country's history.

When I googled I found old outdated information from the 2010 census here in West Virginia which reported then that 19,310 grandparents have now taken on the role of parenting to their grandchildren.

The AARP Grandparent Fact Sheet for WV says the number is, 40,912 children, live in the homes of grandparents or other relatives who are now primary caregivers.

Keep in mind the number of retired grandparents who are living on Social Security and now raising their grandchildren amid this epidemic. Many families just like them are pushed to the max as the role of caregiver puts pressure on the paychecks of many in West Virginia. Two of my own grandchildren are among the statistics here in WV.

One side of this- the enabling, the codependency side tells us to STOP taking on the role of the babysitter. What do we do?

Too many children have lost their parents already to this addiction. Too many children have been removed from their homes. Many others are terrified this will happen to them.

Too many children in those homes have taken on the role of caregiver to their addicted parents and are missing out on their childhood years. All children of this epidemic deserve to be loved. All of these children need to know that this is not their fault. I wish no other child had to go through this and I pray for the day they do not have to go through this.

For those children affected, I hope their parents find recovery, get better and go through the steps to have them back into their lives and their home. I talk to so many who are raising grandchildren and other family members children.

Many children have lost their parents to this addiction. Death is eternal. Many other children have parents struggling in active use. Did you know that many of these children think they are alone?

Then there are the young children who do talk about it. Comparing their parent's drug use to another parents drug use. Or comparing a parents jail sentence to another's jail sentence. Some even talk candidly about the officers who showed up at their house.

What if the parents of those children recover and get better?

I understand the reasons for protecting the children. They do not deserve what is happening to their parent or parents in many cases. They didn't cause this. I do have a few questions such as what if the addict gets better?

I have heard some say, "so and so will never get their child back" and I wonder, what if they get better? To say never means you are not even giving them the chance to recover and become a new person in recovery.

What if the addict's reasons to get better is to regain custody and be in their child or children's lives again? What if their goal is to recover to be the parent that they were before their addiction?

I am wondering how you feel. If a parent recovers do you think they should they be able to get their child back?

Here are some links I found:

1- AARP Grand Facts for West Virginia. This is somewhat outdated with 2010 information and a lot of the links do not work. I was able to type a few into google.
2- AARP Guide to Grand Families: The Guide For Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. This link contains important information you will need for the grandchild as well as a guide to help you keep lists, keeping binders and staying organizational.
3- Grand Families of America
4- Sharing Space
5- Grandparents Raising Grandchildren- Help Guide

If you are a grandparent raising your grandchild or grandchildren contact WV DHHR. There are programs there to help you.
Some benefits can be applied for online at In Roads.

Let me know what you think. Tomorrow's post is another post I feel very honored to bring. It is about The Lazarus House. The director of the house Kevin Bowman tells his personal story of recovery. I hope you come back to read.

Credits for this post:
pic from: Growing Trend
information: AARP
2016 Facts and Figures for WV
Kinship Care and the Welfare System
Grand Facts Sheet for WV
AARP Grandparenting

© 2017 Gossip Girl


  1. I struggle to answer this because of what you said about the codependency side. I understand that we shouldn't enable the addict, but I also understand the kids shouldn't suffer as a result of their parents addiction either. I wonder if I'd step in and care for the child even if it meant I was guilty of enabling my child in this one area. Tough choice. My heart goes out to you. This has to be such a difficult struggle for you. I can't even imagine how difficult this road is for you.

    1. It often feels like a double edged sword- the enabling and doing what is right. Children have nothing to do with a parents substance abuse problems and disorders. They didn't cause it, they definitely cannot control their parents addiction and they will never fix their parents while the parents are in active use. However we have to look at this also as they do recover from addiction. Yes there is an accountability, but I also believe that once they are recovered they do have certain rights- parental rights. Thank you for your input on this and for reading.

  2. It's true that we shouldn't enable an addict but saving an addict's innocent children is not enabling. It is rescuing. And people like you deserve our ears, and our respect. I am sharing this on my personal Facebook page.

    1. Thank you for reading and for sharing it. I agree the children in this addiction are all worth saving from it. Their parents addiction really has nothing to do with a child who in many cases has to step in to become care givers to their parents. Standing on either side is a hard place to be. Thank you for stopping by to read and for your opinion on this subject.

  3. Phenomenal post! I should thank you for this educational read. I trust you will post again soon.
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