As the opioid craze sweeps across the state, unfortunately increased numbers of children are going into foster care or into a relative’s custody. Those relatives/caregivers face overwhelming responsibility of caring for young, traumatized, vulnerable children. All while navigating courtrooms and complicated child welfare systems, with little to no social or financial support. As well as coping with their loved one’s unfortunate addiction. Who considers the toll this takes on said relatives/caregivers? Caregivers should be able to provide a stable and loving environment for these children to grow up in, unfortunately, this feat seems impossible.
The family remains the primary source of attachment, nurturing, and socialization for individuals in our current society. Therefore, the impact of substance use disorders on the family and individual family members requires attention. Each family and each family member is uniquely affected by the individual using substances including but not limited to having unmet developmental needs, impaired attachment, economic hardship, legal problems, emotional distress, and sometimes violence being perpetrated against him or her. (Jukic, 2012) For children, there is also an increased risk of developing a substance abuse disorder themselves. (Jukic, 2012)
Drug use seen in one generation is likely to affect the lives of the next generation. Children with one or both parents on drugs face massive hindrances. They can suffer from physical and emotional abuse, trauma, with possible lifelong effects, and possibility of their family being torn apart. Social institutions are being overloaded with the need to help or relocate these children. (The Effects of Children of Drug Addicted Parents, n.d.) Many children raise themselves and/or are raised by their siblings. Often, it is too difficult for substance abusing parents to maintain stable lives for their children. Further, causing the burden of caring for these children to be on relatives and/or grandparents of the children. It is estimated that 6.6 million minor age children are living in a grandparent-headed household. (The Effects of Children of Drug Addicted Parents, n.d.) Living with a relative or grandparent becomes another issue for these children to overcome due to the children’s routine being changed and them now being primarily in a foreign place that is not their home. There are also positives to children relocating with a relative or grandparent while their parents are seeking treatment for their addiction. They will have permanency and their behaviors will improve due to them having stability and not being exposed to traumatic environments. Children’s response to the trauma they were exposed to will be better when they are with a family member that they care and trust and that they are familiar with.