ICYMI: CBS’s “60 Minutes” Spotlights Senator Collins’ Work to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren as a Result of the Opioid Crisis

“When Opioids Impact the Whole Family”

CBS | Brit McCandless Farmer


Click HERE to read the full “60 Minutes Overtime” article.  An excerpt is below.


“In Maine, the number of children being raised solely by their grandparents has increased 24 percent over a five-year period — a number that caught the attention of Senate Aging Committee Chair Susan Collins, R-Maine.


“‘It was clearly due to the opioid crisis because the parents were in treatment and unable to care for their children, or they were in prison, or they were nowhere to be seen in some cases,’ Ms. Collins said. ‘That had me interested in the issue.’


“Trying to help grandparents who find themselves in this situation, Ms. Collins last May co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, the ranking member on the Aging Committee. Dubbed the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, the legislation passed the Senate in March by unanimous consent. It awaits a House vote.  


“According to Ms. Collins, the bill would create a federal task force that would identify, coordinate, and disseminate information and resources to help grandparents meet the needs of the children in their care. She emphasized that the goal is not to set up a new federal program, but rather to create a temporary group that consists of grandparents and representatives from key agencies. Additionally, she said the task force could make recommendations to states, which set their own laws regarding compensation for foster caregivers.


“It would also focus on helping the grandparents maintain their own health and emotional well-being.


“‘You can imagine the strain this puts on someone who hasn't had a young child in the house for decades,’ Ms. Collins said.


“Marvin Sirbu doesn't have to imagine. Awake early in the morning to get the girls to school, he's losing sleep and worrying about his health, especially because he said he's now older than both his parents were when they died.


“He and Ms. Sinsheimer say the Senate legislation could help other grandparents, especially when they first become the primary caregivers. Older adults haven't raised children for a long time, so they don't know how to access support, legal aid, and social services. They also have questions: Can grandparents claim their grandchildren as dependents when filing taxes? Are they eligible for extra Social Security funds as senior caregivers to young children?


“In the meantime, organizations like AARP and Generations United have compiled state-by-state resources for grandparents thrust into an unexpected role as parents.”