PA Grandparents

As their children die in heroin epidemic, grandparents must raise their grandkids

Like many others in Pennsylvania, Joanne Clough is adjusting to unexpected retirement moments. Like when she forgot about the baby gate, which sent her sprawling into the dark room. Her first thought was about the toddler in arms. Her next thought was about her artificial knee, her pain and, with her cellphone downstairs, how she would summon help.

The 60-year-old lawyer can be forgiven for forgetting about the gate. It was the first one in her home since her own children were small. But Clough now has full-time responsibility for another young walker — the 22-month-old child of her daughter, who died of a heroin overdose in 2016.

“I am a broken-hearted, mother-grandmother doing the best I can each day to just breathe, live, survive and raise my granddaughter so this addiction does not destroy us too,” said Clough, who lives in Cumberland County.

Clough is among thousands of grandparents in Pennsylvania caring for a grandchild because one or both of the child’s parents is incapacitated by opioid addiction or dead of an overdose.

In Pennsylvania, about 88,000 grandparents are raising 195,000 grandchildren. In about 40 percent of those cases, drug or alcohol addiction is the main reason for the children being placed with the grandparents. But these figures don’t tell the full story. Many more grandparents are raising their children under arrangements without knowledge or involvement of children and youth services.

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To read more about how grandparents are struggling to raise grandkids all across Pennsylvania, please visit PennLive.com.

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