DUBOIS, Pa. -- In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Penn State DuBois students have continued to battle social issues, even if they’ve had to adapt to new methods. This semester, students in the Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) program teamed up with local nonprofit, Square One, to address the rising concern of the opioid epidemic in the region and how it is changing the shape of families. Specifically, students researched a rising trend in which grandparents are stepping in to raise the children of addicted parents.
The project came about as a means to help tackle a very real issue that community leaders are working on. HDFS Program Coordinator Jessica Clontz said, “I was contacted by Michael Clement, director of Square One, who explained some of the issues facing grandparents in this situation. Those include navigating parenthood the second time around, financially securing a lawyer to obtain guardianship, being able to afford clothes when living on a fixed income, dealing with grief, loss, and addiction in the family while raising small children, not knowing where to turn to gain guardianship in the first place.”
Square One is a nonprofit organization with a location in DuBois with a mission to help area residents thrive through social and economic issues. Clement explained, “Square One is designed to be outside the box. We don’t do a band-aid approach. We take a deep dive into the issues facing our communities.”
Clontz assigned this research through her class, “HDFS 447: Issues in Gerontology”, tasking students with digging deep into the numbers by contacting state agencies, school counselors, community members, police officers, nurses, staff at the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging, and people raising their grandchildren or other family members.
Clontz explained, “In class, the students discussed their surprise to discover that over 2 million children in the U.S. are being raised by a family member other than their parents, largely due to substance abuse and incarceration. Pennsylvania has been one of the hardest hit states with regards to the opioid epidemic; therefore, the rate of grandparents obtaining guardianship of their grandchildren over the last decade has risen steadily.