We all know how devastating the addiction epidemic has been for our state, and it has far-reaching consequences for Ohio families. It’s often grandparents who step in to care for kids when their parents can’t because of addiction, or when parents are tragically taken from their family by a fatal overdose.
Our office has heard from a number of Ohio grandparents raising their grandchildren and unfortunately, we know the opioid epidemic is putting more and more grandparents in this situation.
More than 2.5 million grandparents in the United States, including more than 100,000 Ohio grandparents, are the primary caretaker of their grandchildren, and experts report that these numbers are growing as the addiction epidemic gets worse.
These relatives face unique challenges. The grandchildren they’re caring for are dealing with the trauma of having a parent suffering from addiction, or having tragically lost a parent. Grandparents also face their own health challenges as they grow older, and any parent of a toddler can tell you that caring for very young children can be physically demanding. Many of these older Ohioans never expected to be doing that full-time again.
Family members also don’t often qualify for the same level of financial support a foster parent would receive when they take on an additional child. For so many grandparents, taking on the responsibility of raising their grandchild means the end of retirement for those who can go back to work, or the depletion of their savings.
One Ohio grandmother wrote to me, saying “I kept my grandchildren out of the system out of love. I don’t get much help. I worked 43 years.”
We need to learn more about all of the challenges facing grandparents like her, and other relatives in Ohio who have stepped up as caregivers, so we can support them as they raise these children.
That’s why I worked to pass the bipartisan Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which is headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
My bill establishes a federal task force to support grandparents raising grandchildren to identify, coordinate, and share information and resources. The task force will also share resources to help grandparents and other relatives maintain their own health and well-being.
We have a long way to go to support these families, but this bill is a simple, bipartisan step we are taking, right now, to support the Ohio grandparents and children whose lives have been upended because of addiction.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator representing Ohio.