Family 411: Opioid crisis fueling the increasing numbers of grandparents raising grandkids

Geoff and Nita Strawn are raising their four-year-old granddaughter after their daughter served time in prison. (WSYX/WTTE)

The number of grandparents raising grandchildren in the United States is on the rise. Grannies and Papaws are stepping up to take care of their "grand-families" often with little or no time to plan when circumstances arise that are likely beyond their control.

Geoff and Nita Strawn are raising their four-year-old granddaughter after their daughter served time in prison. The Strawns started a Facebook group called "Grandparents Raising Grandkids" and hear from families across the country about their challenges and successes. "If they are feeling down and they just need somebody to talk to they can vent," Nita said. "People give good advice. You know I have been through this and this is what has helped, try this."

An estimated 8 million children live with grandparents in the U.S. and that number is being fueled by drug addictions. "Obviously everybody is aware of the Opioid epidemic going on and it's not just here but all over the country," Geoff said.

Geoff said many of the grandparents are retired or were about to retire but a lot of them end up not being able to stop working. "They are barely able to make the bills themselves and now they have one, two, three more mouths to feed and get them to school."

The Strawns said many grandparents are not only dealing with financial problems, but costly attorney bills. "It is wonderful having the kids and you know that them with you is the best thing. But the expenses, the legal things that come up and everything. It's unbelievable," said Geoff. "Check out the laws in your state. Most states have some type of grandparents rights."

The best piece of advice Nita had to give to grandparents raising grandkids--be patient. "They need help with everything. They need help with food. They need help with clothes, taking them to and from the doctor."

"There are so many people who have so many different problems with their grandkids. There's always quite a few people who have had that experience already and they give out some good advice," said Geoff, who suggest people find a way to network with others raising their grandchildren.

The Strawns said when they put Skyler to bed at night they turn in not long after since the care for their granddaughter can be exhausting and stressful. While experts warn against "overdoing it" with the close supervision needed of kids and physical demands of raising grandchildren, it can have health benefits.

According to a recent study from Boston University caring for grandchildren can help lengthen lives, prevent depression, boost social connectors and keep older adults mentally sharp.

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