WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – We are a month into the new year and still the opioid crisis continues to rage on.
It has fallout far beyond the people who are addicted, meaning families can take on additional struggles where kids are involved.
7% may not seem like a large number, but that’s the percentage of children being raised by their grandparents in West Virginia. That translates to about 26,000 children, which is well above the national average of 3%.
You hate to be the best at something so bad.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
Each year KIDS COUNT Data Book looks at child well-being across the United States. It’s a publication of The Casey Foundation that pulls from the Population Reference Bureau, the most recent U.S. Census and the American Community Survey.
What the study found was that the 7% percent of grandparents raising grandkids in West Virginia is the highest in the country.
All change like that is traumatic. Children are always going to want to go back to what they know best; but sadly to say nowadays often the grandparents, aunts, uncles even cousins are those people.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
Laura Albertini-Weigel is the Director of the WIND (Women Inspired in New Directions) Program at the YWCA Wheeling. She said the Mountain State does have a high removal rate.
Here, those removals usually happen because of addiction.
80% to 90% of our removals in the state of West Virginia are tied to addictions.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
Albertini-Weigel explained that one of the reasons the number of grandparents raising grandkids is so high could be because of the time it takes to open safe foster homes.
Our system has revamped so that we’ve privatized foster care. To get people to buy in and become foster parents is a very difficult process. Sometimes it takes time.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
Plus, staying with someone the child already has a relationship with could be better for them in the long term.
When a child does have to be separated from a parent staying with another relative helps them experience the least amount of trauma, but that also gives grandparents or other family members a lot more responsibility.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
Each situation is different and comes with its own challenges.
For the purpose of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, a “child” is defined as up to 18-years-old. However, in state foster care systems a child is can go up to 21-years-old. Some grant programs list a child as up to 24-years-old.
Dealing with a youngster provides its own set of challenges and getting them through and safely into school. Dealing with teenagers is a whole other set of issues and concerns, social media, things that they’re exposed to. Things that grandparents, aunts and uncles that have been out of that realm for a few years aren’t familiar with.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
Albertini-Weigel said there’s no one-size-fits-all solution because each case is different.
That’s why places like the YWCA Wheeling are there to provide support.
That’s a lot of responsibility and you may not have been in that part of your life. You may have been beyond that. You may have health issues yourself.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
For example, the YWCA Wheeling does have programs to support grandparents because parenting is always changing and evolving. They also have childcare and even mental health services for the children.
A lot of our school systems have brought social services into their system. They have counselors who work with these families. Some of our schools have altered programming throughout the day to help these children deal with their traumas of single and no parent families.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
In some places, like Ohio and Marshall Counties, there’s also a family treatment court.
The ultimate goal no matter which route a family takes, is to put children back together with their parents.
Are we a work in progress in West Virginia? Most assuredly because we realize at least now that we have a very broken system which we are slowly trying to put back together.Laura Albertini-Weigel, Director, WIND Program, YWCA Wheeling
If you find yourself in a difficult family situation like this in the Ohio Valley, Albertini-Weigel said to call the YWCA Wheeling. If they don’t have a program to help, they will most likely be able to connect you with someone who does. Call them at 304-232-0511 or visit ywcawheeling.org.
In other parts of the Mountain State, you can check with the local Family Resource Network or CASA program.