Casey introduces legislation to expand benefits, improve access to resources for grandparents and relative caregivers raising children
More than 2.7 million children in the United States are being raised by grandparents and other relatives
At least 140,000 children were orphaned by the pandemic and are now living with grandparents or next of kin
Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) held a hearing entitled, “Strengthening Support for Grandfamilies During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond,” which examined challenges facing grandparents and kinship caregivers raising children and how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated those challenges. Many grandparents and kinship caregivers step in when parents are no longer able to care for their children and are not financially prepared for the added expense of raising a child. Approximately one in five grandfamilies live at or below the federal poverty line and nearly half of all grandmother-only households are living in poverty.
“So many grandparents and kinship caregivers pick up the mantle to provide children with the support and stability they need, often following family trauma. These caregivers may forgo their own needs to make sure there is food on the table for their children, and face poverty and mental health challenges because of it. I have long fought to strengthen support for these families, and I will continue to fight for their needs so that grandfamilies can thrive in their communities,” said Chairman Casey.
Many grandfamilies rely on benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Social Security programs. Because of the added financial pressure, many caregivers postpone retirement or deprioritize their own needs to care for children that have come into their care. In order to support these families, Chairman Casey is introducing three pieces of legislation:
The Grandfamilies Act, co-sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), would provide grandfamilies and kinship families with greater access to cash benefits, including increasing access to Social Security child’s benefits and expanding TANF to make financial resources more accessible to grandfamilies. The Grandfamilies Act would also provide competitive grants to support collaborative community-based efforts to provide mental health and peer support to grandfamilies.
The Supporting the Well-Being and Mental Health of Grandfamilies Act, which is co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), would address the heightened mental health challenges faced by members of grandfamilies by extending the work of the Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, whose mission is to identify and raise awareness of resources available to grandfamilies and kinship caregivers.
The Informing Grandfamilies Act, co-sponsored by Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) would require states to use existing channels of communication with grandfamilies who are receiving or applying for TANF cash assistance to provide these families with information about other available resources.
Grandfamilies or kinship families often form in response to a number of challenges, including parental death, mental health conditions, substance use disorder, parental incarceration or other life events. These families save taxpayers an estimated $4 billion a year in costs related to additional support and services for children provided through the child welfare system.
Chairman Casey invited Ruth Stevens, a grandparent caregiver from Philadelphia, PA, to testify at the hearing about her experience raising her grandson, Tamir. Ruth fought to bring her grandson home with her after he was placed in foster care without her knowledge. She testified, “I was 50 years old when I got [Tamir], and it was not easy. I did not drive and brought him to all of his medical appointments on the bus or the train. I got help from different programs in the community. I was on public assistance. I received a small check to take care of him. We struggled for a while until he was able to get on disability insurance...Taking care of kids makes me feel loved. I know somebody loves me. It gives me a sense of purpose. Even though it is very hard, I enjoy it. It is very dangerous for these kids out there on the streets. I do the best that I can to keep Tamir safe and I am proud of myself for raising him.”
Read more about the Grandfamilies Act here.
Read more about the Informing Grandfamilies Act here.