WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) today introduced 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.
A growing consequence of the opioid crisis is an increasing number of grandparents raising their grandchildren because the children’s parents overdosed 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.
“We must be there for the children whose parents have died or are absent because of their substance use disorder,” Senator Hassan said. “Largely due to the opioid epidemic, 2.6 million children are currently being raised by their grandparent – or other relatives or close family friends – without their parents in the home. This bipartisan bill will help ensure that these children get the care and support that they need to thrive.”
“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,” Senator Collins said. “The Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act would provide grandparents access to important resources they need to help their grandchildren succeed.”
“In the midst of the opioid crisis, more and more grandparents and other older relatives are stepping in with little to no warning to raise children and keep them out of foster care,” said Jaia Lent, Deputy Executive Director at Generations United. “This legislation helps grandfamily caregivers access critical supports and services to help the children thrive.”
“It is estimated that more than 12,000 grandparents in New Hampshire are raising their grandchildren,” said MaryLou Beaver, Chair of the NH GrandFamilies Advisory Council. “The New Hampshire GrandFamilies Advisory Council has heard from a substantial number of Grandparent caregivers of a system that they find difficult to navigate, of not having anywhere to turn to help them find supportive services and resources, of the challenges of meeting the material needs of their grandchildren on limited incomes, and of children with mental and behavioral health issues that could not be addressed in a timely manner. It is imperative that grandfamilies have access to all the supports and services available inside and outside of the child welfare system to ensure that the children’s needs are met. We believe that Senator Hassan's bill will address some of the unique challenges they face and will help these families to 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.
Last year, Senator Collins introduced the bipartisan Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which Senator Hassan cosponsored and the President signed into law. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan met with grandfamilies in New Hampshire who have been impacted by the opioid epidemic and discussed how to strengthen child abuse prevention laws to better address the impact that the substance misuse crisis is having on young people and families.
The bipartisan Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act is also endorsed by the New Hampshire Children's Trust.