HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The ongoing opioid crisis is causing concern about where children of parents with a substance use disorder will live and who they will live with.
Many times, they’ll move in with a grandparent or other caretaker.
Bob Carter, a child therapist at The Center for Counseling and Wellness, said he sees anywhere from 25 to 30 clients every week. Of that number, about 90% are children. Then, of that 90%, around 75% to 80% of those children live with their grandparents.
“I’ve been shocked since I’ve been doing this job, to be honest with you, about the number of children that are raised by their grandparents," Carter said. "And some of them are being raised by grandparents ... that are too old to be able to do that. And what happens so many times is the grandparent’s out of the system as far as what education, what’s expected of the kids at school and how to deal with school problems.”
A map from the U.S. Census Bureau from a 2016 study shows the opioid prescribing rate per 100 people by state. South Carolina is in the darker color, meaning it ranks higher.
Going deeper into this study, Horry County is ranked in the highest color option ranking, at 80.56 or higher, and Georgetown County is ranked one level below in the 72.91 to to 99.3 range. The U.S. average is 66.5.
Another map in this study shows the percent of the population 30 and over raising grandchildren from 2012 to 2016. The Palmetto State again ranks in the darkest color. Both Georgetown and Horry counties again fall in a darker shade. It’s not the top level, but it still ranks higher than the national average of 1.38%. Both counties rank in the 1.51 to 2.30 percentage.
Carter said if the parent is an addict, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the child to be raised by a grandparent.
“Some times and many times they are better off with their grandparents than they were before," he said. "There’s also that tie to mother and dad. They never lose that desire to be with mom. What really causes a lot of issues is the visitation with mom and they go to see mom or dad who’s been on drugs and abused and all that. They still love them and they still want to be there.”
John Coffin, the executive director of Shoreline Behavioral Health Services, said it’s not just opioids but all substance use disorders this can relate to.
Coffin said anyone can have a substance use disorder, but noted the poorer a person is, the more adversely the effect will be due to the lack of resources.
Victor Archambeau, a physician for Tidelands Health and medical director of FAVOR, said the overdose rate per capita in the state is the highest in Georgetown County and the second highest in Horry County.
Coffin said it’s a progressive illness like diabetes or cancer if it’s not managed. He added it’s not uncommon to reach a point where parents can’t care for their children, which is when grandparents or other caretakers will step in. He notes, however, that can happen with any chronic illness.
Bruce Lynch, licensed addiction therapist, said if the child has been removed from their home or taken away from their parents, it does have an impact on their typical child development. That impact can manifest into anxiety, depression or behavioral issues.
“Being a license addiction counselor, I know it’s frustrating for family members and loved ones’ perspective to see them doing something completely irrational," Lynch said. “But it hijacks our basic instincts and when it does that it totally shifts our priorities.”
He said there are cases when grandparents step in and have successfully been able to get the child back to the parents.
One of the biggest takeaways doctors said is help out there.
If you or someone you know is battling an addiction, please call one of the below centers:
Shoreline Behavioral Health Services:
2404 Wise Rd, Conway, SC 29526
Faces and Voices of Recovery, FAVOR:
4953 US Highway 17 Bypass South, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577