Senators Hassan and Collins Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Support Grandfamilies Affected by Substance Misuse and Other Trauma
Program Created Through the American Rescue Plan to Support Grandparents and Other Relative Caregivers
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), both members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, reintroduced 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 other trauma. Companion legislation was also introduced in the House by Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA). The bipartisan bill would also encourage state and local child welfare agencies to work with the National Technical Assistance Center on Grandfamilies and Kinship Families. Congress created this Center through the American Rescue Plan to provide comprehensive services and supports to grandparents who have taken over as primary caregivers.
“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.”
“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 opioid epidemic has devastated families in our region and across the country,” said Representative Scanlon. “The effects of this public health crisis extend beyond the person suffering from substance use disorder — impacting entire families, especially children. Nearly 2.7 million children across the United States, and over 200,000 in Pennsylvania, are currently being raised by their grandparent(s), other relatives, or close family friends. As we work to combat the opioid epidemic and support those suffering, we also have to address the unique needs of extended kinship families."
“All children deserve a safe, loving, and stable home. Due to the ongoing opioid crisis, stability is often found with grandfamilies and kinship caregivers,” said Representative Thompson. “I am proud to support this bill, which will ensure that children and families are eligible for programs and services that will best serve them in their time of need.”
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.
“I have heard from countless grandparents across New Hampshire who need additional supports in order to provide for their grandchildren,” said MaryLou Beaver, Chair of the NH GrandFamilies Advisory Council and Kinship Navigator for the Concord Region. “Oftentimes, these grandparents have taken over as primary caregiver after their grandchild’s parents were unable to provide for them, either because of a substance use disorder or other challenges. The Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act will take commonsense and necessary steps to better support grandfamilies and help address their unique challenges.”
"New Hampshire Children’s Trust is proud to support Senator Hassan’s bill, Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act,” said Joelyn Drennan, Senior Program Director, New Hampshire Children’s Trust. “74% of caregivers enrolled in NH’s Kinship Navigation Program reported parental substance use as the primary reason for raising the children in their care. Senator Hassan’s bill offers a crucial opportunity to further investments in primary prevention to support kinship families raising children whose parents have died, are incarcerated, are using drugs, are in treatment or are otherwise unable to take care of their children. Ensuring access to the information, concrete supports, benefits, and services required to meet their family’s needs is critical to preserving and strengthening kinship families, and to preventing unnecessary entries into foster care. New Hampshire Children’s Trust fully supports Senator Hassan’s efforts to prioritize the needs of kinship families through, Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act."
“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.”
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.
- Coordinate with the National Technical Assistance Center on Grandfamilies and Kinship Families that Congress created in the American Rescue Plan 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. More recently, Senator Hassan helped secure $350 million for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law. Senator Hassan also recently joined in reintroducing the bipartisan Jenna Quinn Law, which would encourage community-based education and training for teachers, caregivers, and students to prevent child sexual abuse.
Read the bill text here.
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