Grandparents Raising Kids Affected By Opioid Crisis Get Support From New Bill

By Maggie Ethridge 04/22/19

Louisiana and New Mexico have already passed similar bills to help grandfamilies affected by opioid crisis.

grandparents raising a child affected by opioid crisis

One of the most devastating effects of the opioid crisis has been the enormous amount of children with addicted parents who are abused, neglected, or left without parents due to the parent’s death or inability to caretake.

A new bipartisan bill in Washington, D.C., Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act, is seeking to support those children and their grandparents.

The act, introduced by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), would grant access to services under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).

Families raising these children (typically grandparents) would have access to support for the children who have experienced various traumas, including specialized training to help families access, understand and take advantage of the myriad supports they could be eligible to receive.

Grandparents and caregivers often have numerous resources as foster parents that disappear once they are given permanent custody. Generations United reported that 21% of grandparents caring for grandchildren are living below the poverty line.

States like Louisiana and New Mexico passed similar bills as the Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act, while many states, including Massachusetts, Illinois and Georgia, have bills that still have not been voted on.

“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.”

Last year, Senator Collins and Senator Hassan worked together to introduce and get passed into law the bipartisan Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act. Senator Hassan met this year with grandparents and children in New Hampshire who have been impacted by the opioid epidemic to brainstorm strengthening child abuse prevention laws in order to better support these unique families.

On Senator Hassan’s press release, Senator Collins said, “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. The Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act would provide grandparents access to important resources they need to help their grandchildren succeed.”

Click here for more information on the bill and read the bill text here.

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.