Cleveland, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – The opioid epidemic continues to hit our country hard. Last year, more than 46,000 people died from overdoses, leaving thousands of children without parents.
Some are placed in foster care, but in many cases, grandparents are stepping up to raise their grandkids. In fact, today, 2.6 million children across the country are being raised by grandma and grandpa. Here are two women who are working hard to help grandparents who are now raising grandchildren.
“She suffered from postpartum depression terribly. I knew towards the end it was heroin and meth,” said grandmother Keli Clark. “She was prescribed opioids for a breast reduction at 18 years old. She got ahold of fentanyl and died on her first overdose,” said Brenda Ryan, whose daughter overdosed. These mothers are living with the grief of losing their daughters to drugs.
And now both are also challenged with raising their grandchildren.
“I'm angry that she died. It's a lot raising a little boy again,” said Ryan. 9-year-old Wyatt’s life was uprooted four years ago when his mother accidently overdosed … but so was his grandmothers.
“You just figure it out and do it,” said Ryan. She looked for help—and found very little— instead, she found her calling. She started Keys to Serenity, to help the children who lost parents to drugs, and began support groups to help grandparents find their way.
“They are not getting the support that they need,” Ryan said. “So we need to support our grandparents. They have already contributed to our communities. They've paid into this system. So, there's absolutely no reason why we cannot help them as they help us,” said Janine Boyd (OH-D) with the House of Representatives.
In Ohio, foster parents can receive up to a thousand dollars a month. Brenda, and other relatives, get just 270 dollars for providing the same thing.
Keli Clark felt the financial impact—twice as hard. After her daughter Noelle died, she was left raising twins Hunter and Chase. “I’m back to doing homework and I’m involved in Boy Scouts and baseball,” said Clark. To help grandparents, as well as the children, she started Project Noelle. “I said, you know what, we're going to help these kids."
In her first year, she helped 82 families with Christmas presents. Three years later, that number is up to 737 and has expanded to emergency clothing, Easter baskets, haircuts in the summer, parties and support groups. “We can give people stuff if they don’t have any money,” said Chase Maschari, Keli’s 6-year-old grandson.
And although it’s unexpected and endless work, Keli says the boys are her motivation. “They give me a reason to get out of bed,” said Clark.
35 states have passed legislation to financially help legal guardians. After the financial strain Covid-19 has put on families across the country, you can imagine how grandparents may need even more support this year.
You can find both Project Noelle and Keys to Serenity on Facebook. Both charities run on a hundred percent donations.