MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The opioid crisis is forcing grandparents to raise their grandchildren and blow through their retirement savings.
“I get up at 4 o’clock in the morning. I start my work early. I get her up usually at 6:30. I get her bath, start her breakfast,” said Terri Smith who lives in Mobile with her 4-year-old granddaughter. Smith says she’s had custody of the little girl since birth. At 58-years-old, Smith never imagined she’d be raising another child.
“This is becoming such a huge epidemic. You’ve got grandparents coming out of retirement. You’ve got grandparents living on social security. You’ve got people really seriously struggling that offering loving homes, nurturing..everything that these children need,” said Smith.
Smith, who is single, says she no longer has a nest egg for retirement. Her savings is gone because of money spent caring for her grandchild on daycare, food, clothing and legal costs associated with trying to maintain custody of the child.
“This is a huge issue for the families in our community and its growing as this epidemic is increasing,” said Virginia Guy, Executive Director of The Drug Education Council in Mobile. Guy says the community has to start embracing these families that have been thrown out of balance and stop laying blame.
“We need to understand that it’s not anybody’s fault. Nobody means to get addicted. It’s not the children’s fault, it’s not the grandparent’s fault. But, there’s a lot of ways that we can support these families,” said Guy.
She would like to see faith-based groups and churches step up to help. Guy says HR Departments in the workplace can provide programs to alleviate stress. Also, when looking toward retirement., financial planners may need to factor in the cost of raising grandchildren.
When asked about her own retirement and future, Smith said, “I don’t know and I can’t worry about that now. I can’t worry about that because every time I do…it’s just a stress and you don’t want to do that. She would feel that. I don’t know what I’m going to do…I don’t know.”
Smith belongs to several online support groups for grandparents raising their grandchildren, but she would like to start one in Mobile. Guy says the group could meet at The Drug Education Council office building. Smith can be reached by email at email@example.com and Guy can be reached at 251-751-3665.
Guy is available to talk to any grandparents who are looking for additional resources.
For for information on overcoming opioid addiction, check out the following websites.