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Grandparents' rights increasingly important in opioid crisis

The opioid crisis in America is, thankfully, receiving more and more attention in the media. It was recently declared a public health emergency by the President. As more young parents struggling with addiction end up in prison, in treatment, or dead, the responsibility of raising their children is increasingly falling on the grandparents.

The statistics are clear. The number of kids going into foster care increased by 30,000 from 2012 to 2015. Some states report particularly high rates of child protective services personnel having to take children out of homes where parents are abusing opioids. And it's estimated that grandparents are stepping in to take care of more than 2.5 million kids.

On the one hand, it's generally recognized that not only is the strong family and emotional connection an advantage to these kids over foster care, but that it saves the state significant amounts of money. On the other hand, grandparents face some major challenges in trying to take over care of their grandchildren. Finances are just one such challenge: usually on a fixed income themselves, grandparents struggle with the expenses of raising children today.

Legal challenges can be another source of frustration and anxiety. If a child's parents refuse to give up custody or perhaps want to take a child back without restoring stability in their lives, what rights do grandparents have? Do they have to give in to the parents' demands? Can they try to adopt their grandchildren?

In Illinois, the options available to grandparents depend on a number of factors. We'll explore these in more detail in a follow-up post.

Source: NBC News, "Opioid Crisis Forces Grandparents to Raise Their Grandkids," Hannah Rappleye and Brenda Breslauer, Oct. 20, 2017

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