The numbers of grandparents both in Michigan and across the country that are having to take on the responsibility for caring for their grandchildren full time have increased steadily in recent years. This uptick in grandparents raising their grandkids has largely been fueled by the opioid epidemic that has swept across the Midwest particularly hard.
An Ann Arbor nonprofit, Altarum, interviewed 20 grandmothers across Michigan and surveyed over 1,000 others throughout the country. At least 20 percent of them admitted that they were raising their grandchildren themselves because their adult children are addicted to drugs. Many of them also admitted that this has forced many of them to return to work or to delay their retirements so that they can afford to raise them.
The concept of grandparents raising grandchildren isn’t new. They’ve been doing this since long before the opioid crisis swept across the country. A parent’s untimely death, mental illness, homelessness and incarceration have all been reasons grandparents have had to step in and take care of their grandkids. Michigan and five other states currently lack clear parental rights laws that address grandparents raising their grandchildren.
Grandparents raising their grandkids in Iowa, Utah, Illinois, Vermont, Tennessee and Michigan aren’t afforded the right to enroll their grandchild in school or to take them to the doctors under existing state laws.
In Michigan, it’s possible for a grandparent to gain custodial rights of their grandchildren if their adult child is willing to sign a waiver allowing them to do so. If they’re estranged, can’t be located or are uncooperative, then they have few options.
Given this, it’s no wonder that the number of kids being cared for in foster care rose 10 percent from 2012 to 2016. Parents who take in children under this system receive social assistance and other financial backing from the state. Grandparents don’t.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 1,941 individuals died last year from opioid-related causes. The number of grandparents who are forced to raise their grandkids is expected to increase as the number of opioid-related deaths continues to rise across the state.
If you’re one of those Trenton grandparents who was called upon to care for your grandkids, then an attorney can advise you of factors that are considered in custody determinations and the options available to you.