Opioid epidemic is creating more "grandfamilies" in Virginia

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The opioid epidemic is touching thousands of families in our hometowns.

Among its effects, tearing children away from their parents.

One in 10 children are living in a home with a grandparent, often because of opioid addiction.

Virginia Tech Associate Professor Megan Dolbin-MacNab has spent nearly 20 years studying what are now known as "grandfamilies."

She says around 55,000 children in Virginia are being raised exclusively by their grandparents.

About 40% of those are because of the parents' substance abuse.

For some of these kids, they've never known any other parental figure except for their grandparent.

The living arrangement is more difficult for kids who had to be removed from their parents' home.

"And in those situations, children may come to their grandparents with a variety of different kinds of issues that they may deal with," says Dolbin-MacNab

She says these children often have behavior issues.
But in the long run, they do better with their grandparents than other caregivers.

There's more stability and more connections other family members..

It's a labor of love that often requires some outside help. Fortunately, there is help available.

"Many communities have support groups where grandparents can meet up with other grandparents and talk and share stories and share solutions to challenges, those types of things. There are resources through social services. Grandparents can apply for WIC benefits."

Dolbin-MacNab adds that most of the children she's worked with are aware of the challenges their parents are facing.

"And seem to understand I can't be with my parent right now and for that reason often will talk about being grateful for their grandparent being willing to take them in," she says.