When Heroin Forces You to Raise Your Grandchild

The 'New York Times' talks to grandmothers who are doing it
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2016 7:11 AM CDT
When Heroin Forces You to Raise Your Grandchild
In this Feb. 17, 2016 photo, Sister Kay Kramer, a nurse and midwife at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, holds a preemie whose mother was addicted to heroin, in Cincinnati. The New York Times talks to grandparents who have taken in children born to such addicts.   (Carrie Cochran /The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

Cindi Colburn is 51 years old, but her social circle is full of twentysomethings, and not exactly by choice: They're the parents of other 5-year-olds, and Colburn is raising one herself—Maleigha, her granddaughter, the child of a mother addicted to heroin. Colburn serves as the lead character among a much wider cast in a New York Times piece examining the experience of grandmothers who should be empty nesters, or entering the glory years of retirement, but are instead carpooling and making mac 'n' cheese. "Not since the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, analysts say, have so many children been at risk because of parental drug addiction," the Times observes before sharing quotes from women who have taken in some of those at-risk kids.

In the case of Colburn, she told the Times she wanted to share her experience so that other grandparents in a similar situation, or contemplating a similar situation, know they're not alone, and it's manageable. That's not to say it's easy. A sampling of quotes:

  • "The worst part is, I always feel like I’m the bad guy. They want to go home to their parents, and I’m not letting them. I have to say, ‘They aren’t with you for a reason.’ It does suck some days." —Angela Cimino, 43
  • "Raising him isn’t the hard part. Yes, it stinks. I’m going through menopause. But the hardest part is knowing what my daughter is missing. She has no clue and doesn’t care. That, and that I’ll bury her before they bury me." —Wanda Custred, 52
  • "If we die before they turn 18. This is our greatest fear. ... We don’t have anyone to take the kids. I’m thinking about interviewing people to adopt them." —Pamela Toms, 53
  • "I don’t know how to do this, none of us do, but I’ve found that parenting the second time around—I’m so much better at it." —Susan Paris, 47
Read the full piece at the Times. (More heroin stories.)

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