Having a child is the greatest commitment and responsibility a person can take on in their lives. Bonnie and Jim L., Pennsylvania residents, recognized this the day their daughter was born. It wasn't until their daughter was diagnosed and later lost her battle with breast cancer that they realized that being a grandparent has the potential for the same kind of sacrifice and commitment that being a parent does. They are raising their 13 year old granddaughter, and carrying out their late daughter's wish of her having a good education. While they love and would do anything for their daughter, and granddaughter; this has cut into "the golden years" of Bonnie and Jim, who are contemplating going back to work to support their grandchild.
Many grandparents are superheroes in the eyes of their grandchildren, but the grandparents that raise their grandchildren deserve a medal, or at least a little recognition by those around them, and the federal government, for the work they put in and the sacrifices they have to make. This is where Senator Bob Casey Jr. comes in.
Senator Casey, a ranking member on the Special Committee on Aging, made a trip to Allegheny Family Network to discuss his new bill called The GrandFamilies Act. This bill which was introduced to congress on Thursday, May 23rd, would be a monumental piece of legislation that would recognize and assist grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.
PA Parent and Family Alliance, and Allegheny Family Network recognize that families come in every shape and size and all "types" of families should be offered the support needed to raise healthy and successful children. Allegheny Family Network's very own CEO Ruth Fox (pictured to the right of Senator Casey) is currently raising two of her grandchildren. Due to the increasing opioid epidemic, high incarceration rates and other unfortunate circumstances there is a sharp rise in grandparents raising their grandchildren. Fox shared with Casey how essential his new bill is because as the CEO of a family run organization she has seen the challenges of grandparents raising their grandchildren, and a lot of them need help.
PA Family Alliance was fortunate enough to attend the roundtable with Senator Casey, and other Pennsylvania grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, to learn about the new and exciting bill. If you, or someone you know, are a grandparent that is in a similar situation in need of support read on to learn what Senator Casey has proposed to the Senate and find out how you would be impacted if it were to pass.
Provide grandfamilies with a greater access to Social Security child's benefits
Update the law so that a child can receive Social Security benefits if they:
Are legally under the custody of a grandparent, or relative that is a recipient of Social Security
Have parents who have become disabled, or have passed away and are now being cared for by a family member who receives Social Security.
Make Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) more accessible to grandfamilies
Make it easier for grandfamilies to receive TANF regardless of work requirements, time limits, and income.
Allow grandparents to gain access to TANF without having the state go after their child for child support (if they do not want this to occur).
Temporary Guardianship Laws
Encourage states to create a system of temporary guardianship laws that would allow grandparents to make essential decisions for their grandchildren.
Encourage States across the country to develop grandfamily assistance plans
Create funding that encourages states to develop plans that provide resources and support for grandparents raising their grandchildren.
Support grandfamily housing
Establish grandfamily housing coordinators who would provide unique programs and guidance to support grandfamilies in daily life and life's daily challenges.
Create a National Technical Assistance Center on Grandfamilies
Ultimately they intend to create a national center that would create, and maintain a best practice database and help states and individual grandparents with issues unique to grandfamilies.
For a more in depth look at the inter-workings of the new bill check out grandfamilies.org's journal on the topic.
Senator Casey has continually fought for the recognition and rights of grandparents, and other senior relatives, raising their grandchildren. A previous bill by Senator Casey passed in 2018 that began the process of getting families the help they needed, and Casey is fighting for even more. Allegheny Family Network, and PA Parent and Family Alliance look forward to seeing the essential benefits this bill would create, and are grateful that Senator Casey understands that families come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them can use some help.
If you or someone you know is a grandparent raising a grandchild in the Pittsburgh area and would like to attend a support group with other grandparents going through similar situations click here.