Over 2 Million Children Being Raised by Grandparents- Opioid Crisis Puts New Strain on Grandfamilies

Oct 27, 2017

About 2.5 million children in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents or relatives other than their birth parents.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we hear a special series about grandparents raising grandchildren. Many are taking care of grandchildren who would otherwise be put in foster care, but the arrangement can be difficult for the grandparents themselves.


Since 2005, the number of grandparents raising grandchildren has nearly doubled in West Virginia, and this is partly due to the opioid epidemic.

These families are often faced with tough choices and legal battles, including decisions about whether or not to adopt. But even though adoption brings stability to what's often a lifelong arrangement, it can also mean the loss of much needed financial support.  

The Opioid Crisis: How Did We Get Here?

President Trump’s administration recently declared a National Public Health Emergency to deal with the opioid epidemic. On this week’s episode we speal with Dr. Petros Levounis, the Professor and Chair of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Levounis, who’s published a number of studies about the opioid crisis. 

Levounis says the opioid crisis of the 21st century can be traced back to the 1980s, when a catastrophic medical mistake opened the door to liberal prescribing of narcotics. The perfect storm of powerful molecules, complex brain physiology, and an over-aggressive pharmaceutical industry, which capitalized on that original error, lead to the current epidemic.

The Struggle to Stay

And we’ll hear the next part of Derek Akal’s Struggle to Stay story. This week’s segment is our deepest struggle to stay yet -- a story about Derek’s family’s struggle, which goes back over 100 years.

Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. The executive producer is Jesse Wright. Catherine Moore edited this episode. Patrick Stephens is the audio mixer. Claire Hemme helped with digital correspondence.

Music in this episode was provided by Marisa Anderson, Dinosaur Burps, Michael Howard and Ben Townsend.