Fighting Her Grandchild: A Kentucky Grandma’s Fight for Custody

FRANKFORT, Ky. – As drug addiction maintains a grip on Kentucky, the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren continues to grow.

But state laws aren’t catching up with the growing trend. One grandmother testified in front a legislative committee to change that.

Kentuckian Karen Campbell has raised her granddaughter since she was born with drugs in her system but now, eight years later, the biological parents have been given full custody of the child.

That’s because custody laws are written for divorce situations and don’t take into account the growing number of kin having to care for relatives.

“Custody needs a renewed awareness of the custody differences between a grandparent or family member raising child many since birth and a divorce case,” Campbell told lawmakers. “The courts and lawmakers need to realize forcing a child to stay in home they are not familiar with is nothing less than traumatic.”

Many custody laws are written to benefit biological parents which in most cases do benefit the child but increasingly in Kentucky children are not being raised by their parents. 

In Campbell’s case she was considered a de facto custodian –meaning she had rights over her grandchild but was never granted full custody. When a judge granted custody to the birth parents–her visitation was limited.

This is happening all over Kentucky.

“I can’t tell you how many times grandparents have told me the same thing happened to them across our state and country, in fact they want me to tell you I am not alone it is happening everywhere,” Campbell said. “Many have spent years raising a grandchild because they, we, seem to have a lesser value to the courts.”

Campbell is urging lawmakers to change the custody law to take into account the amount of time a child is with kin or their unique situation.

“I’m not going anywhere, I will fight this until laws are changed. Representatives in other states are watching you, they want to know what happens after today because they want to model whatever you do,” Campbell said. “Kentucky needs to create laws to protect these kids from this unnecessary trauma.”

Karen Campbell is appealing the decision of the judge but her goal is to make sure no other grandparent—or child has to go through the same traumatic experience her family did.

No law has been pre-filed yet but it’s likely some type of legislation could be seen in the 2020 session.