Bill Will Help Grandparents Affected by Opioid Crisis
Today, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-PA) celebrated the bipartisan Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act (S. 1091) becoming law. The new law will create a one-stop-shop of resources to support grandparents raising grandchildren.
In Pennsylvania, more than 100,000 children are being raised by grandparents or other relatives, and experts say this number is rising as the opioid epidemic devastates communities. Senator Casey introduced the bill last year, with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), after an Aging Committee hearing during which witnesses testified about why grandparents need easy access to information about available resources. Recently, Senator Casey hosted a series of roundtables with Pennsylvania grandparents to discuss how the bill will help them.
“I am pleased that the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act has become law. This law will provide grandparents in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, with easy access to helpful resources,” said Senator Casey. “These grandparents, some of which have stepped in to raise their grandchildren due to the opioid crisis, are faced with unique challenges such as delaying retirement, bridging the generational divide and working through the court system to secure custody. I look forward to the Administration swiftly convening the advisory council created under this legislation so grandparents can access the supports they need.”
The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assemble an advisory council that will include the U.S. Department of Education, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies. The advisory council will identify and disseminate information to help grandparents raising grandchildren address the challenges they may face, such as navigating the school system, planning for their families’ future, addressing mental health issues for themselves and their grandchildren and building social and support networks.
The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act is supported by 40 older adult and child advocacy groups. Read quotes from some of the bill’s supporters below.
“I am thrilled that the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act has been signed into law! The new advisory council will help make it easier for grandparents and other relative caregivers to find important information about resources available to them,” said Dr. Sharon McDaniel, Founder, CEO and President of A Second Chance Inc., located in Pennsylvania. “I am grateful for the leadership of Senators Casey and Collins on this issue and hope that we can all continue to work together to provide much needed help for grandfamilies.”
“We welcome support like this legislation to families impacted by the opioid epidemic in communities across our nation,” said Terese Vorsheck, director of the Caring Place, a center for grieving children, adolescents and their families in Harrisburg. “In Pennsylvania, we are serving an ever-increasing number of children and adolescents dealing with the loss of a family member as a result of opioids, and oftentimes grandparents are the only remaining family left to help this group of young people navigate their future. Resources for grandparents raising grandchildren, and how to access services, are in critical need.”
"AARP is proud to support the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act and is pleased to see it signed into law," said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer at AARP. "Already, more than 2.6 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren, and that number will only continue to grow as our nation struggles with an ongoing opioid epidemic. These grandparents need information and assistance on issues dealing with legal custody, available social services, mental health counseling, and other vital programs. This law will help to achieve that goal by creating a federal advisory council that will serve as a much-needed centralized source of information and resources for grandparents."
"Generations United applauds Senators Collins and Casey for championing the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which has now passed the House and the Senate. This important legislation will result in improving the lives of the 2.6 million grandparents who are raising grandchildren, more and more of whom are being called on because of the opioid crisis," said Donna Butts, Executive Director of Generations United. "As a result of the Senators' compassionate leadership, efforts to support relative caregivers will be better coordinated at the federal level and critical gaps in services will be identified and filled."
“As the opioid epidemic continues to contribute to rising numbers of children entering foster care, it is critical to support the relatives who care for them, known as kinship caregivers,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Colleen A. Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP. “Supporting kinship caregivers helps maintain a child’s connection to family, and is essential to alleviating the trauma children face when they enter foster care as a result of their parents’ substance use disorder. The American Academy of Pediatrics thanks Congress for enacting the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, and looks forward to supporting its effective implementation.”