When Parents Have Substance Abuse Issues, Should Grandparents Receive Custody of Their Grandchildren?

Posted By Mark Baer || 30-Jun-2015

I had a very interesting breakfast meeting this morning with two mental health professionals, both of whom have been involved with situations in which the State has taken custody of children away from the parents because of their substance abuse. They were telling me that an increasingly large number of grandparents are receiving custody of their grandchildren.

I told them there was an aspect of that dynamic that I never really quite understood.

Our personal backgrounds have very much to do with our parents and how they raise us. Our life experiences have to do with EVERYTHING we experience in our lifetime, including people we befriend, schools we attend, courses we take, books we read, our sources of news, etc. Ultimately, our life experiences have very much to do with our personal choices in terms of what we do, if anything, to try and broaden our worldview.

While the grandparents may not have issues with substance abuse, my question is to what extent their parenting contributed to their child's issues with substance abuse.

The background investigation of the grandparents will delve into possible physical domestic abuse. However, what about emotional abuse? Research shows that emotional abuse is often more harmful over the long run than physical abuse. Did the grandparents shame or judge their children or otherwise abuse them emotionally? After all, empathy is incompatible with shame and judgment.

Is the State turning custody of children over to those who actually parented in such a manner as to contribute to their children's ultimate substance abuse?

Both of the mental health professionals looked at me in complete surprise. Almost immediately, they both said that I was absolutely right and that they had never considered such a thing. They also told me that nothing in the vetting process looks into whether or not the grandparents shamed, judged, or otherwise emotionally abused their children.

I then said that I would be putting the grandparents under a much more thorough vetting process than I would a complete stranger, under those circumstances. Otherwise, the State may well be giving custody of minor children to people whose parenting is such that it is likely to lead to another generation of substance abusers.

They completely agreed with my assessment.