Dear Barb—Grand Parenting

Dear Barb:

I am the grandmother of a three-year-old.  Her mother (my daughter) has a drug problem and I do not feel she is taking proper care of my granddaughter.  I have gone to her apartment in the middle of the afternoon and my granddaughter is alone in her room still in her pajamas, while my daughter is obviously high and laying on the sofa.  I have tried to talk to my daughter about this, but she denies that she has a problem.  It is heartbreaking for me to leave my granddaughter in that situation.  I have offered to take her to my house but my daughter refuses to allow her to go with me.  I don’t know what my rights are, but I do not feel leaving my granddaughter in harm’s way is the correct thing to do.  What do you think I should do?  Caring Grandma in Nova Scotia. 

Hello Caring Grandma:

This a heartbreaking situation and as the opioid crisis escalates, this is not going away.  Many grandparents find themselves in similar situations and must change their entire lives to accommodate their grandchildren.  It is a very difficult situation, but until your daughter gets better, you will have to take your granddaughter in, or risk her going into the foster care system.  Taking on complete care of your grandchildren is a huge undertaking, but one that most grandparents are willing to do.

As a grandparent you do have rights.  You can look at the Canadian Grandparents Rights Association for some information.

If you cannot get your daughter to relinquish care to you, I would suggest you contact the Children’s Aid Society and see if you could get a social worker involved.  If your daughter does not recognize that she has a drug problem, she may react quite negatively to a visit from a social worker.  Be prepared for this possible outcome.

On the other hand, this intervention may help her to realize there is a problem and possibly get help.  If your daughter goes into a treatment facility, you will most likely be given custody of your granddaughter, depending on the father’s situation.  While your granddaughter is in your care there are ways that you can help her to adjust to the temporary loss of her parent.  Discuss family counseling with the social worker.  You and your granddaughter are both experiencing this loss and you need skills to navigate the journey ahead.  Hopefully, it will be a short one and things will get back to normal.  You may have feelings of anger towards your daughter, but you need to put them aside and not speak negatively about her to your granddaughter, as that will impact her self-esteem.  When you speak of your daughter’s addiction, describe it as a disease of addiction, this way the child will perceive it as an illness, which is what it is.  Good of you Grandma for stepping forward for the sake of your grandchild.

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