Senate Aging Committee Holds Hearing on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren as a Result of the Opioid Crisis

Click HERE for a copy of Senator Collins’ opening statement

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, convened a hearing today titled, “Grandparents to the Rescue: Raising Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis and Beyond.”

The growing number of grandparents raising grandchildren—or “grandfamilies”—is due in part to the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic that is affecting communities across the country. In the United States, a baby is born with an opioid addiction every 25 minutes. When parents who are struggling with addiction are no longer able to care for their children, grandparents are increasingly assuming the role of primary caregivers.

Today’s hearing focused on the health and well-being of grandparents who take on the often-unexpected role of raising their grandchildren later in life and what Congress can do to address this effect of the opioid epidemic on grandparents. When taking on the responsibility of caring for their grandchildren, grandparents often significantly adjust their life plans, including postponing retirement, depleting their savings, dramatically altering their social lives, and challenging their physical and mental health. Grandfamilies can also be beneficial, however, by providing children with permanent homes, continued connections to community and cultural identity, and fewer school changes. Approximately 2.5 million children are currently being raised in grandfamilies.

Last year, nearly 1,000 babies in Maine – about eight percent of all births – were born addicted to opioids and other drugs. This tragedy afflicts many other states as well as mine,” said Senator Collins. “In this crisis, as in past crises, grandparents are coming to the rescue. Today’s hearing recognized the grandparents raising grandkids and explored what can be done to assist them as they take on this unanticipated challenge motivated by their love of their grandchildren.”

“The opioid crisis is presenting new challenges for older Americans that Congress must focus on,” Senator Casey said. “Today’s hearing was an important step in highlighting the role that grandparents are playing in raising grandchildren because of the opioid crisis. It’s critical that Congress sustain the current supports for these families, including vital programs like Medicaid that provide substance use disorder treatment, and examine whether there are additional steps that need to be taken to meet the needs of families affected by the devastation of the opioid epidemic.”

At the invitation of Senators Collins and Casey, respectively, Bette Hoxie, Executive Director, Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program from Old Town, ME, and Sharon McDaniel, MPA, Ed.D., Founder, President, and CEO, A Second Chance, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA, testified about their experiences supporting grandparents raising grandchildren as a result of the rise in heroin use and other opioid abuse. Other witnesses included national experts as well as testimonials via video of grandparents who either are or have raised their grandchildren as a result of addiction issues, including Ann Sinsheimer and Marvin Sirbu of Pittsburgh, PA.

Witnesses for the hearing included:

Testifying by video (Click HERE to watch):

  • Ann Sinsheimer and Marvin Sirbu, Grandparents (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  • Linda James, Grandparent (Rochester, New York)
  • Belinda Howard, Grandparent (Fort Walton, Florida)

In-person panel:

  • Jaia Peterson Lent, Deputy Executive Director, Generations United (Washington, D.C.). Click HERE for her testimony.
  • Megan L. Dolbin-MacNab, Ph.D., LMFT, Associate Professor, Department of Human Development, Director, Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Program, Virginia Tech University (Blacksburg, VA). Click HERE for her testimony.
  • Bette Hoxie, Executive Director, Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program (Old Town, ME). Click HERE for her testimony.
  • Sharon McDaniel, MPA, Ed.D., Founder, President, and CEO, A Second Chance, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA). Click HERE for her testimony.