The opioid epidemic continues to ravage many parts of Tennessee and the nation, and it is changing the face of the modern American family. Increasingly, grandparents across the state are stepping in to raise their grandchildren when the child’s parents are no longer fit to do so, but the transition is not always an easy one. 

According to WBIR, more than 70,000 grandparents across Tennessee are currently responsible for raising their grandchildren, and the majority of these cases are the result of parental opioid abuse. Grandparents raising grandchildren has become so common across the state and region that some counties have enacted special committees that seek to help these families succeed and thrive. 

Grandparents as Parents programs 

While not currently available statewide, Grandparents as Parents programs seek to give grandparents raising their grandchildren support and resources to help them do so. Program participants have an opportunity to “re-learn” how to raise children, which might involve different processes and tactics than it did when grandparents raised their own children decades ago. Grandparents in such programs also have a chance to learn more about how to keep their children out of foster care settings when parental drug use is in play. 

Tennessee, Kentucky particularly hard-hit 

Some regions of the country have far higher numbers of grandparents raising grandchildren than others. Aside from Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia, the states where more than 1.76% or more of grandparents are responsible for raising their grandchildren are primarily located in the South. Kentucky, however, has been particularly hard-hit by the opioid epidemic, and it currently ranks fifth in the nation as far as the number of grandparents who are now caring for their grandchildren. 

Transitioning from retirement to parenthood is often immensely difficult. If you count yourself among those suddenly raising your own grandchildren, know that there are resources and support networks available that may help you.