Senator Collins Chairs Hearing on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren as a Result of the Opioid Crisis

Bette Hoxie of Old Town, the Executive Director of Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program, testified at Senator Collins’ invitation

Click HERE for a copy of Senator Collins’ opening statement
Click HERE to watch Senator Collins' opening statement
Click HERE to watch Senator Collins' Q&A with Bette Hoxie

Washington, D.C. - Last year in Maine, 1,000 babies—about eight percent of all births--were born addicted to opioids and other drugs. This tragic situation mirrors a national trend, where a baby is born with an opioid addiction every 25 minutes. When parents who are struggling with addiction are no longer able to care for their children, grandparents are increasingly assuming the role of primary caregivers.

The growing number of grandparents raising grandchildren, or “grandfamilies,” which is being fueled by the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic, was the subject of a Senate Aging Committee hearing today chaired by U.S. Senator Susan Collins titled, “Grandparents to the Rescue: Raising Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis and Beyond.” At Senator Collins’ invitation, Bette Hoxie from Old Town, the Executive Director of Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program, testified.

Today’s hearing focused on the health and well-being of grandparents who take on the often-unexpected role of raising their grandchildren later in life and what Congress can do to address this effect of the opioid epidemic on grandparents. When taking on the responsibility of caring for their grandchildren, grandparents often significantly adjust their life plans, including postponing retirement, depleting their savings, dramatically altering their social lives, and challenging their physical and mental health. Grandfamilies can also be beneficial, however, by providing children with permanent homes, continued connections to community and cultural identity, and fewer school changes. Approximately 2.5 million children are currently being raised in grandfamilies.

"At a time in life when most seniors are looking forward to enjoying more leisure time, some grandparents have found themselves as parents once again,” said Senator Collins. “These grandparents are called on to help for a number of reasons, including alcohol and drug addiction, physical abuse, incarceration, divorce, financial difficulties, military deployment, and even death. In Maine, the number of children being raised solely by their grandparents increased by 24 percent between 2010 and 2015. Today’s hearing recognized the grandparents raising grandkids and explored what can be done to assist them as they take on this unanticipated challenge motivated by their love of their grandchildren.”

“Like so many other states, Maine is severely affected by the opioid crisis that permeates our nation and its vulnerable families,” said Bette Hoxie, the Executive Director of Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program. “More and more infants are being born to mothers who are using opioids while pregnant. These births are taking a toll on a population of caring people who would -- if they could --simply love their grandchildren, spoil them, and send them home to be raised and nurtured by their parents. But for an all too growing number of families, this is no longer an option. Instead, the grandparents have become the primary caretakers.”

Bette spoke about the work her organization is doing to support grandfamilies. The Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program’s team of professionals collects items such as furniture, bedding, and other goods to donate to grandparents; provides licensing and legal education; organizes support groups; and connects grandparents and grandchildren to the appropriate resources. Bette also shared her experience raising her grandson, who is now 18 years old, as well as a 19-month-old boy she is currently caring for.

Witnesses for the hearing included:

Testifying by video (Click HERE to watch):

  • Ann Sinsheimer and Marvin Sirbu, Grandparents (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  • Linda James, Grandparent (Rochester, New York)
  • Belinda Howard, Grandparent (Fort Walton, Florida)

In-person panel:

  • Jaia Peterson Lent, Deputy Executive Director, Generations United (Washington, D.C.). Click HERE for her testimony.
  • Megan L. Dolbin-MacNab, Ph.D., LMFT, Associate Professor, Department of Human Development, Director, Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Program, Virginia Tech University (Blacksburg, VA). Click HERE for her testimony.
  • Bette Hoxie, Executive Director, Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program (Old Town, ME). Click HERE for her testimony.
  • Sharon McDaniel, MPA, Ed.D., Founder, President, and CEO, A Second Chance, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA). Click HERE for her testimony.