Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act to create a federal task force charged with supporting grandparents raising grandchildren.
Approximately 2.6 million children are currently being raised in grandfamilies, and experts say this number is rising as the opioid epidemic continues to devastate families and communities across the country. The legislation follows a March Aging Committee hearing where the members heard from grandparents who are raising grandchildren when parents are struggling with addiction or are no longer able to care for their children. During the hearing, experts and grandparents testified on the need for grandparents to have easy access to information about resources available to assist them.
“As the opioid epidemic expands, grandparents increasingly are being called on to become the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. Although this caretaker role can be beneficial for both the grandparents and the grandchildren, it also presents several challenges,” Sen. Collins said. “Our legislation would spur a federal effort to identify, promote, coordinate and disseminate information, resources and best practices that assist grandparents who are raising grandchildren.”
“The opioid crisis is not only straining families, communities, law enforcement and health care systems, but it is also presents new challenges for older Americans,” Sen. Casey said. “As older Americans respond by stepping in to care for their grandchildren, this legislation is designed to say that you are not alone and that we have your back, with a focused federal effort to providing the information and supports grandparents need.”
The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act would create a federal task force charged with developing 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. The task force includes the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Attorney General, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, as well as other expert leaders. The task force would serve as a one-stop-shop of resources and information for grandparents raising grandchildren. The taskforce would also be charged with producing a reports to Congress on their findings both about best practices to support grandparents and any identified gaps in resource needs for grandparents raising grandchildren.
“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. “This bill would provide critical direction to better coordinate federal programs that support grandfamilies to help children thrive.”
Last year, Generations United, a leadership organization focused on supporting intergenerational families, released a report, Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic: Solutions and Support for Grandfamilies, which found that after years of decline, the numbers of children in foster care are increasing and pointed to the opioid epidemic as responsible for this trend.
Watch the archived hearing: Raising Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis and Beyond.