Lawmakers hope bills will benefit grandparents raising grandchildren
In Pennsylvania, more than 80,000 grandparents are their grandchildren's sole caregivers.
Officials say the opioid crisis is causing that number to increase.
“Many of these grandparents face enormous obstacles. They have no legal rights to these children. And as a result, there are continuous barriers they have to overcome in order for them to take care of these children,” State Rep. Eddie Day Pachinski, (D) Luzerne County, said.
Pachinski and State Rep. Kathy Watson, (R)-Bucks County, are hoping to give grandparents raising their grandchildren more resources.
Joanna Clough of Cumberland County has been raising her granddaughter ever since her own daughter died from a drug overdose.
Joanna is 61-years-old.
“When you are a grandparent suddenly faced with the worst tragedy you can imagine, in addition to picking out a casket and planning a funeral for your daughter, you have to figure out how you're suddenly going to raise a nine month old,” Clough said.
One bill would provide grandparents with an information website on support services available, as well as a toll-free hotline.
That would be extremely helpful for Lottie Pough.
She lives in Honesdale and has been raising her granddaughter after she nearly died from neglect.
“You sit as a grandparent. You get your child to sleep, hopefully before 10 in the evening. And then you're up ‘til 1, 2, 3 in the morning trying to find the resources so you can go through the next day,” Pough said.
Another bill would allow temporary guardianship to grandparents if substance abuse issues are preventing the parents from taking care of the children.
The grandparents would also be able to take the child to the doctors or enroll a child in school
“There's health insurance issues, there's guardianship issues. How do you sign them up for school? Anytime I go anywhere, I need to have my custody order with me so they know,” Clough said.
Watson says the problem is right now.
“These are grandparents that are caught in the throws. Oftentimes it can start with a knock at the door, and they're raising their grandchildren. We need to help them right now. Not by the time their grandchildren are grown,” Watson said.
It's believed grandparents save the state about a billion dollars a year by keeping their grandchildren out of the foster care system.