Posted: November 30, 2023

For family members taking care of a relative's child as a result of the opioid crisis, it can be difficult to navigate assuming custody.

The process may be easier when caregivers have personal connections to local resource institutions, according to College of Agricultural Sciences research.

Kristina Brant, assistant professor of rural sociology, examined the opioid epidemic through the lens of kinship families — arrangements in which children are cared for by relatives or family friends. She found that when caregivers personally know local legal actors and decision-makers, they have an easier time navigating the legal processes involved in these custody arrangements.

For example, these connections may make it easier to approach a district attorney to file for emergency custody. Brant said the findings provide insight into the challenges that certain kinship families face and can help identify opportunities to address these inequalities.

"People who have these positive personal connections can leverage them to secure the legal arrangement that is best for their family, while also minimizing the state surveillance they are subject to as they take on these new caregiver roles," she said. ­

—Katie Bohn