Opioids, Child Abuse, and Grandparents:the Stories of Drug Addicted Delaware


    Families choose to foster and/or adopt children for many different reasons. Of the families that choose to foster children, 86% adopted a child to provide them with a permanent home, 61% adopted to extend their families, 39% reported because of infertility issues, and 24% wanted to adopt a sibling for their child.

    But in the case of grandparents all across the state of Delaware, they are forced to foster their grandchildren because of addiction.

    Due in part to an increasing amount of fatalities because of drug addiction throughout the state, over 8,000 households are now headed by the grandparents. Last year alone, 308 Delawareans died from drug overdoses, up a whopping 35% from 2015.

    In total, about 9,000 people in Delaware suffer from a drug problem, but only about 10% seek treatment.

    Grandparents stepping in as mothers and fathers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child welfare in Delaware. Currently, there are 8,000 to 9,000 open child abuse investigations open across the state, with the majority being related to heroin and other opioid use. The three top sectors of abuse in these reports are neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

    The reported number of these child abuse cases have almost doubled within the past seven years, up from 11,222 in 2010 to 20,778 in 2016. One potential issue is that the state isn’t launching a full investigation into all these reports, meaning children are consistently falling through the cracks. For example, only 1,100 of these cases were substantiated.

    In the state of Delaware, in order to have a child abuse case confirmed, one of the state’s 222 caseworkers has to go into their home and analyze if the child is in imminent danger. When there is no threat present as deemed by the case worker, the case is labeled unsubstantiated with concern, but typically is not followed up upon.

    As a way to curb this growing statistic, grandparents statewide are calling on the government to make the changes necessary that will give their grandchildren a bright, healthy future. But, as much as government officials may want to help, right now it is a hard path to embark on.

    This year, the Delaware General Assembly has been tasked with raising taxes and cut budgets statewide, which means the funding for an increase in these necessary programs may be slim to none.

    But, that doesn’t mean some politicians aren’t trying.

    “You cannot meet these families, you cannot meet these people and hear what they have been through and not become an advocate for fixing this problem,” Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said Wednesday in a speech to introduce legislation aimed at impeding the growing drug epidemic.