The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act (S. 1091) became law in July 2018, and will for the first time, focus national attention on better understanding the complex needs of grandparents and other older relatives who are caring for children and help to make information about promising practices and programs more accessible for these special families.
The Act is expected to help 2.6 million children being raised by grandparents or another family member — a figure expected to keep growing along with the national opioid epidemic.
When parents fall into addiction, “grandparents are increasingly coming to the rescue,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. Collins cosponsored the bill with the committee's ranking member, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.
These grandparents are “replacing traumatic pasts with loving and hopeful futures,” Collins said. Stepping up for a second round of parenting — especially when the family is dealing with the fallout of opioid addiction — comes with a barrage of decisions and challenges, such as “delaying retirement, navigating school systems, bridging the generational gap, working through the court system to secure custody and finding mental health services,” said Casey. Grandparents need a one-stop resource that provides contacts and information that will help “in that moment of crisis in that family,” said Casey.
The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which has the backing of 40 advocacy groups for older adults and children, including AARP and the American Academy of Pediatrics, mandates such a resource. A federal advisory council will include a grandparent, an older relative raising a child and experts from federal agencies; it will be charged with locating established resources across the country, investigating best practices, researching how to raise children and finding useful information for older relatives raising children, with a special focus on those affected by opioid addiction.
Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, praised Congress for taking action, saying, “The federal advisory council will identify, promote, and disseminate information about this vital support and the resources available to help grandparents create and maintain a stable home environment for their grandchildren so that they can thrive.”