Office of the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey
Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family

Drug Addiction Has Led To More Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

November 26, 2016

Original blog article published at NCADD website on Nov 26 by Ezra Helfand

The number of grandparents raising their grandchildren is going up and increasingly it’s because their own kids are addicted to heroin or prescription drugs, or have died from an overdose.

For some, it’s a challenge with little help available.

In 2005, 2.5 million children were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care. By 2015, that number had risen to 2.9 million.

According to PBS Newshour, child welfare officials say drug addiction, especially to opioids, is behind much of the rise in the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren, just as it was during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s. An estimated 2.4 million people were addicted to opioids at last count.

Caseworkers in many states say a growing number of children are neglected or abandoned by parents who are addicted. That has forced them to take emergency steps to handle a growing crisis in foster care — and often to turn first to grandparents for help.

According to PBS Newshour, federal law requires that states consider placing children with relatives in order to receive foster care and adoption assistance. And grandmothers and grandfathers often are the first — and best — choice when state and local caseworkers have to take a child out of a home and find someone else to take custody.

The article notes that, as a result of this epidemic, many grandparents face a host of emotional and financial challenges in their renewed parenting role. And there are often few state or local resources to draw on for help.

According to Generations United, 21 percent of grandparents caring for grandchildren live below the poverty line,. About 39 percent are over 60 and 26 percent have a disability. And because many are not licensed in the system, they are not eligible for the same services and financial support as licensed foster parents.

Helping a loved one struggling with alcoholism or drug dependence can be heartbreakingly painful, but with help, it can be remarkably rewarding. To learn more, please click here.

For more information about substance abuse prevention efforts in Arizona, visit