“Hey, You Wanna Take This Kid Forever?”

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  • Title: “Hey, You Wanna Take This Kid Forever?”: The Impact of Substance Use Disorder on Relative-as-Parent Families in Idaho
  • Author(s): Edwina French, Ellen Schafer, Tara Woodward, Sarah Toevs
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The Journal of Aging and Social Change
  • Keywords: Relatives as Parents, Kincare, Kinship Caregivers, Substance Use Disorder, COVID-19, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Qualitative, Parent/Child Relations
  • Volume: 14
  • Issue: 1
  • Date: December 18, 2023
  • ISSN: 2576-5310 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2576-5329 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2576-5310/CGP/v14i01/1-29
  • Citation: French, Edwina, Ellen Schafer, Tara Woodward, and Sarah Toevs. 2023. "“Hey, You Wanna Take This Kid Forever?”: The Impact of Substance Use Disorder on Relative-as-Parent Families in Idaho." The Journal of Aging and Social Change 14 (1): 1-29. doi:10.18848/2576-5310/CGP/v14i01/1-29.
  • Extent: 29 pages

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Background: There are over 2.6 million children in the US being raised by a kinship caregiver. When parents are unable to care for their child(ren) due to their substance use disorder (SUD), relatives, often grandparents, may take over the caregiving role. These relative caregivers are known as relatives-as-parents (RAPs). This study explored the impact a family member’s substance use disorder had on the relative as parent, their child(ren), and the family as a whole. Methods: Idahoans who were RAPs due to a SUD were recruited via support groups, an announcement at the Idaho Caregiver Alliance Caregiver Conference, and through snowball sampling to participate in semi-structured interviews. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and data were analyzed via thematic analysis. Results: Participants (n = 20) ranged in age from 30 to 78 and cared for one to five children. A primary theme of access was identified and examined by SUD impact on RAPs (grief, stigma), the child (adverse childhood experiences), and family. Conclusions: Pre-existing access challenges and compounding issues related to SUDs create unique barriers for RAPs. Public and private organizations must continue to collaborate on efforts to provide a seamless system of services and resources tailored for RAPs as they strive to support the children in their care and maintain their own health and wellbeing.