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Grandparents providing the safety net in the midst of opioid crisis, according to Virginia Tech expert

October 26, 2017

Image of Megan Dolbin-MacNab
Megan Dolbin-MacNab is an associate professor in the department of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. She points to Census data, indicating that one in ten children are living in a home with a grandparent. This translates to more than 7 million children.

The opioid crisis in the United States has created millions of grandfamilies, or families in which grandparents are raising their grandchildren. In these “skipped generation households,” grandparents provide an important safety net to their grandchildren and families, according to a Virginia Tech expert on grandparents raising grandchildren.

Megan Dolbin-MacNab says, “Washington’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency provides an opportunity to highlight the extraordinary ways that grandparents are coming to the rescue of their grandchildren because their parents can no longer care for them.”

Dolbin-MacNab is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech.  She points to Census data, indicating that one in ten, or over 7 million, children are living in a home with a grandparent.  Of these, approximately 2.5 million or 3% of all U.S. children have grandparents or other relatives as their primary caregiver, and have no parents in the home.  Many of these children are being raised by their grandparents as a result of parental substance abuse and the opioid epidemic.    

Quoting Dolbin-MacNab

“There are so many challenges and stressors facing today’s families, including the opioid epidemic.  In response to these challenges, grandparents are stepping in to care for grandchildren whose parents cannot otherwise take care of them.”

“Raising a grandchild impacts every aspect of a grandparent’s life.  The costs of raising grandchildren are more than just financial.  Grandparents may experience legal difficulties, physical and mental health problems, social isolation, and parenting challenges.”

“Children being raised by grandparents are grateful for their grandparents’ efforts, but often struggle to understand what has happened to their parents and their families.  They may also have been exposed to difficult circumstances that result in physical, emotional, and behavioral challenges.”

“Grandfamilies face numerous barriers to accessing support services.  If grandparents don’t have official custody of their grandchildren, for example, they may have difficulty enrolling their grandchildren in school or getting them access to health care.”

“Not all the news is bad.  Grandparents raising grandchildren display tremendous resilience and show deep love and commitment for their families and future generations.”

Megan Dolbin-MacNab

Dr. Dolbin-MacNab’s research focuses on a variety of topics related to grandparents raising grandchildren including the experiences and well-being of the grandchildren, the impacts of raising grandchildren on grandparents, and best practices for providing community-based services to grandparents and grandchildren.

Read Megan Dolbin-MacNab’s Bio

To secure a print or broadcast interview with Megan Dolbin-MacNab, contact Bill Foy at 540-231-8719 or 540-998-0288.

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