"On Frontline" of Opioid Epidemic, Grandparents Need Lawmakers' Help
Monday, January 30, 2017
CONCORD, N.H. — In a phenomenon driven largely by the opioid epidemic, more New Hampshire grandparents are raising their grandchildren, and they’re hoping state lawmakers will offer some help this legislative session.
Chris Wade and his wife Bonnie are among the more-than 8,000 grandparents in the Granite State raising their grandchildren. He described grandparents as being on the front line of the opioid epidemic, often becoming aware of problems before neighbors or the police.
"We, as grandparents, we knew that she was an addict quite a long time before,” Wade said. “Yet there was nothing from a legal standpoint that we could possibly do to take our grandchild away from that situation, to make it better for him."
The problem with the current law, according to Wade, is that it calls for immediate protection for the child, but also requires that courts and authorities protect the sanctity of the home. State Rep. Mariellen MacKay of Nashua hopes to change that with SB148, a measure that would give guardian grandparents legal standing in court proceedings.
Wade said that simple change would make a big difference for grandparents raising grandchildren who have parents hooked on drugs.
"And it allows us to not have to be put through the ringer to protect our grandchildren,” he said. “It means we can go to the judge and, if the parents want that child back after we have gone through guardianship, then it's up to that parent to be able to prove that they are worthy of having their child back. "
Many children from families affected by drug and alcohol abuse experience severe trauma, which can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Wade said grandparents who become primary caretakers then need to secure services to address these challenges.
"We're very lucky - financially, we're able to do it. But there are a lot of grandparents out there that are not financially able to do it,” he said. "A lot of them are retired, a lot of them are living on fixed incomes. When you go to the state, there are very few resources to help them."
State Sen. Martha Hennessy has also introduced a bill that would establish a commission to study the needs and issues affecting grand-families.
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