The smallest victims of drug addiction – the children of addicts – often go unheard, but in some cases, their grandparents are stepping in to raise them.
Baltimore-area residents Mary and Ed Grabenstein have custody of their granddaughter, 6-year-old Lexi, whose mother, Janet, struggled with drug addiction for years: first pills, then heroin.
"Drugs totally had taken what love she had for her daughter," Mary Grabenstein said.
When she saw the conditions Lexi was living in with her parents, she was appalled.
"Drugs. That's all Lexi saw was drugs," she said.
She and her husband petitioned the court -- and their daughter -- for full custody of Lexi and won.
There are no concrete numbers for how many grandparents are raising their grandchildren as a result of drug addiction, but a look on Facebook shows pages like The Addict's Mom, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Magnolia New Beginnings, which offer online group support for grandparents.
"As the opioid crisis, and addiction in general, continues to take its toll on our friends and families we at Magnolia banded together to pass on information that we gathered in the process of helping our own," Magnolia's website reads.
"I know a total of about eight grandparents who are raising their grandkids," Grabenstein said.
Becoming a parent again, after raising her own five children, is a challenge in so many ways.
“I didn't have clothes, I didn't have a car seat for Lexi, I had nothing,” she said. “No bed, no nothing. Not even a baby doll.”
Friends and neighbors helped, and she now works cleaning houses and walking dogs.
Making sure Lexi feels safe and stable has been the hardest part.
“She was a child that was traumatized,” Grabenstein said. “I couldn't get her to sleep by herself. The things she would do I would sit back and watch, so I got her into therapy.”
Grabenstein said her daughter is now clean and lives in an upstairs apartment in their house where she and her husband can keep an eye on her. She has infrequent, supervised visits with Lexi, but Lexi's grandparents share in all of their granddaughter's moments and milestones.
“I'm just happy that she's starting to become this happy little girl that she should have been four years ago,” her grandmother said.