Bill Would Create a Task Force to Support Grandparents Caring for Grandchildren, as the Opioid Crisis Increases Their Numbers
Washington, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-PA) applauded the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s unanimous passage of the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which would create a federal task force charged with supporting grandparents raising grandchildren as the opioid epidemic increases their numbers. The senators urge swift action on the Senate floor to make this important bill law.
Approximately 2.6 million children are being raised in grandfamilies, and experts say this number is rising as the opioid epidemic devastates communities across the country. Senators Collins and Casey, who are both members of the Senate HELP Committee, introduced the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act last year after an Aging Committee hearing during which witnesses testified about the need for grandparents to have easy access to information about resources available to assist them.
“Throughout history, grandparents have stepped in to provide safe and secure homes to their grandchildren, replacing traumatic pasts with loving and hopeful futures. As a result of the current opioid crisis, more and more grandparents are taking on this role. It is essential that we do all that we can to help these families,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased that the Health Committee unanimously passed our bipartisan legislation, which would help ensure that grandparents who have taken on this caretaker role have access to the resources they need.”
“I am pleased that the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act unanimously passed out of the HELP Committee. I co-authored this bill to respond to the needs expressed by families throughout Pennsylvania and across the country who need our help to find resources and supports to raise their grandchildren,” said Senator Casey. “The number of older Americans who are stepping in to care for their grandchildren is on the rise due to the opioid crisis. I urge my Senate colleagues to pass this legislation swiftly so that grandfamilies will know where to go to access the information they need.”
The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act would create a federal task force charged with identifying and disseminating information designed to help grandparents raising grandchildren navigate the school system, plan for their families’ future, address mental health issues for themselves and their grandchildren, and build social and support networks.
“Generations United applauds Sens. Collins and Casey for their leadership in introducing the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which is an important step toward supporting the approximately 2.6 million grandparents raising their grandchildren across the country,” said Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United. “As our country grapples with the opioid epidemic, grandparents and other relatives are being called on in increasing numbers to raise the children left behind. This bill would provide critical direction to better coordinate federal programs that support grandfamilies to help children thrive.”
At last year’s hearing, the Senators heard testimony from Dr. Sharon McDaniel, Founder, CEO and President of A Second Chance, Inc., located in Pennsylvania—a state that has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. In Pennsylvania, more than 100,000 children are in the care of their grandparents or other relatives. “I am so elated that the Supporting Grandfamilies Raising Grandchildren Act unanimously passed the HELP Committee! Raising relative children later in life is not easy. Grandparents and other relative caregivers raising these children need information about all the resources available to them and this bill would help make things a little easier. I’d like to thank Senators Casey and Collins for their leadership on this issue and I look forward to their continued efforts to support grandfamilies.”
“As a grandmother currently raising grandchildren and as an advocate for many years for others doing likewise, I wish to thank Senators Collins and Casey for paving the way for this legislation,” said Bette Hoxie, former executive director and current board member of Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine Inc. and the Kinship Program in Orono, Maine. Ms. Hoxie, who is also a grandmother raising a grandchild, testified at the Aging Committee hearing in March 2017. “I believe this Task Force will lead to improved empathy and understanding of the joys and challenges of grandparents raising grandchildren. With a greater understanding will come improved services, supports and resources needed to do this important work.”