Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), both members of the Senate Health Committee, introduced the bipartisan Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act to better support kinship caregivers – the vast majority of whom are grandparents – who have taken over as primary caregivers for children exposed to substance misuse or trauma. The legislation would also encourage state and local child welfare agencies to work with the National Technical Assistance Center on Grandfamilies and Kinship Families. The U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bipartisan counterpart.
“As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate families across Maine, grandparents increasingly are being called on to become the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. Although this caretaker role can be a source of tremendous comfort and stability for families, it also presents several challenges,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill would provide grandparents access to important resources they need to help their grandchildren succeed.”
“The substance use disorder crisis has devastated families across our state – and oftentimes it is grandparents who step up to fill the void left by a parent’s absence,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan legislation takes important steps to get grandparents the supports that they need while raising their grandchildren, and I am eager to work with Senator Collins to move this commonsense bill forward.”
“When children cannot stay with their parents, grandparents and other relatives help reduce the trauma of separation by keeping children safely with family, yet so often these grandfamilies get little to no support,” said Jaia Peterson Lent, Deputy Executive Director and Co-Director of the National Center on Grandfamilies at Generations United. “This legislation helps these families access services and support to help the children thrive.”
A growing consequence of the substance use disorder crisis is an increasing number of grandparents raising their grandchildren because the children’s parents passed away or are absent due to substance use disorders. This bipartisan legislation would help address the unique challenges that face grandfamilies and all kinship families, including ensuring that these families are eligible for services under Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and providing support to meet the unique needs of children who have experienced trauma, including exposure to substance misuse.
The Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act would:
· Help to ensure that grandfamilies and all kinship families are eligible for services under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA);
· Provide additional support to these families to meet the unique needs of children who have experienced trauma, including being exposed to substance misuse;
· Call for specialized training to help kinship caregivers navigate the complicated supports and services they may be eligible for; and
· Coordinate with the National Technical Assistance Center on Grandfamilies and Kinship Families to disseminate information on best practices used to support children being raised in kinship families within, or outside of, the child welfare system.
Senator Collins introduced the bipartisan Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act in 2018, which Senator Hassan cosponsored and the President signed into law. Last year, the Government Accountability Office released a report Senator Collins requested on ways to enhance support for grandparents and other relative caregivers.
Click HERE to read the full text of the bill.