More Utahns raising relatives' children due to parents' substance abuse

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18 2013 7:46 p.m. MDT

Most can, but they need support to deal with children who may be damaged by neglect and abuse, he said. Some grandparents need help moving past the shame of their own children's dysfunction.

"These people end up with real challenges," said Elder Bateman, who has led a kinship committee as part of the state Initiative on Utah’s Children.

Graham said the website helps to extend the reach of the nonprofit agency's Grandfamilies program. However, more resources are needed to provide additional support to families.

Today, some 82,000 Utahns are raising children in kinship arrangements, compared with 42,000 in 2000.

Graham said when she examined the 2000 Census data, she wondered aloud, "How on earth can that get any worse?"

By 2010, the number had nearly doubled.

"When I looked at that and realized that was one in every 10 children, I was astounded," she said.

If all the children living in kinship arrangements in Utah (most often with grandparents) were in foster homes, Graham said, their care would cost the state nearly $3 billion a year, supposing an annualized cost of about $40,000 a year per child.

"It would bankrupt our state," she said. "It's the least effective for long-term outcomes for children."

The Children's Service Society plans to ask the Utah Legislature to appropriate $2.8 million in ongoing funds to expand the reach of its Grandfamilies program.

Childs said he believes the website will be a boon to families raising other relatives' children.

"Man, hundreds of people are going to be hitting that website hard" for help with their unanswered questions, he said.

"The biggest thing was, I didn't know or understand the level of resources available to me and the intricacies of getting through the process," Childs said.

Becoming a guardian also churned many emotional issues. Childs said he is grateful he and his wife had support of peers to negotiate those feelings.

"This is an emotional time, and other people understand what I am going through," he said.

Most of the time, Nathaniel and Miriam Childs say they enjoy the joys and challenges of guiding another child through adolescence.

They're holding off on providing a cellphone until Andre is older, despite his frequent protests. He has a set bed time, and the couple enforces limits on the types of video games he is allowed to play.

As for parenthood the second time around, Nathaniel Childs says he relishes the time he and Andre spend riding bikes and playing basketball.

"I'm committed to the cause," he said. "If I weren't committed to the cause, I'd be resentful of the time and energy I spend. He's so much fun to have around, you forget all that. You just go and live your life."

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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