Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Across Appalachia, 'Grandfamilies' Face Increasing Challenges


Last year on Inside Appalachia we aired an episode about Grandparents raising grandchildren. Our newsroom just won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for this series, so today, we’re listening back to this important story.  

About 2.5 million children in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents or relatives other than their birth parents. Since 2005, The number of grandparents raising grandchildren in West Virginia has nearly doubled. Most experts blame the opioid epidemic for this increase.

West Virginia has the fourth highest rate in the nation for grandparents raising grandchildren — an arrangement often referred to as “grandfamilies”.

Studies show that when the parents can’t care for their kids, it’s best for the children to find a relative like a grandparent. But how does it affect the long-term physical and mental health of the grandparents themselves?  

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.

Inside Appalachia is produced by Roxy Todd. The executive producer is Jesse Wright. Catherine Moore edited this episode. Patrick Stephens is the audio mixer.

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