Opioid fallout: Grandparents struggle with raising their grandchildren
A fallout of the opioid epidemic is the strain on grandparents. Many of them are now raising their children's children and in desperate need of support.
For Karey Dyer, she never imagined her retirement years as not just grandma, but mom to her 5-year-old granddaughter as well.
"You have to put the children first, " she said.
Her daughter and the baby's father were both hooked on drugs.
Karey remembers the day she brought the little girl home. She was 2 at the time.
"That particular day I hear about using meth, using heroin and selling," Dyer said. "It was, 'Oh my gosh, this is very serious.' I said to my husband, 'it's really, really bad and we need to take her.'"
But raising a child so young isn't easy said Dyer. It's not only exhausting, but there are huge financial costs.
According to the advocacy group, "Generations United, " an estimated 2.6 million kids are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. That's a huge saving for the states that don't have to pay out foster care costs. So the burden falls on the grandparents and that can be overwhelming.
"This is expensive. We've spent $10,000 in court costs between attorney fees and court fees, trying to protect our child and dealing with issues as they come up. That's a lot of money," Dyer said.
Family Attorney Chris Trolinger, with Petroff Law Offices, does not represent the Dyers but has represented many grandparents. He says he sees the hardships almost daily.
"Many times these events are spontaneous. They haven't saved for these things and they're on a fixed income, " said Trolinger.
To help cut costs, Trolinger says grandparents should be proactive. Get involved before the state takes a child. He says then seek custody privately. While you will pay attorney fees, Trolinger says grandparents who seek custody before Children Services gets involved will ultimately lessen the number of times they'll be in court. He says it also shifts the way the court views the case, not necessarily trying to reunite the child with the biological parent, but do what's best for the child.
"In a private action the grandmother has more control as opposed to the agency having the bulk of the control," said Trolinger.