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Bill to Help Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Due to Opioid Crisis Passes Senate

Washington, DC — Today, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-PA) celebrated the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act (S. 1091), which would create a federal task force charged with supporting grandparents raising grandchildren as the opioid epidemic increases their numbers. The U.S. House of Representatives must pass the legislation before it becomes law. The bill is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 15 senators and supported by a wide array of child welfare and aging organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and AARP.

Approximately 2.6 million children are being raised by their grandparents 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 Health, Education, Labor and Pensions 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. With so many parents struggling with addiction, grandparents are increasingly coming to the rescue and assuming this role. It is essential that we do all that we can to help these families,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased that the Senate 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.”

“The number of older Americans who are delaying their retirement in order to care for grandchildren is on the rise due to the opioid crisis,” said Senator Casey. “I am pleased that the Senate passed the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which will help thousands of grandparents in Pennsylvania access the resources and support they need to raise their grandchildren. This is another tool we can use to combat the opioid crisis in our communities.”

The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act would create a federal task force charged with identifying and disseminating information designed to help grandparents raising grandchildren address the challenges they face, which may include navigating the school system, planning for their families’ future, addressing mental health issues for themselves and their grandchildren, and building social and support networks.

“Today marks an important milestone in the lives of the 2.6 million grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Thanks to the leadership of Sens. Collins and Casey the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act will bring attention to the vital role these caregivers play in helping our nation’s children thrive,” said Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United. “The legislation will provide information and help coordinate federal resources during a time relatives are being called on in unprecedented numbers to step in and care for the children of the opioid crisis.” 

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 has passed the Senate! 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,” said Ms. Hoxie.

Watch the archived hearing: Raising Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis and Beyond.  

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