The Lead

Pa.’s Casey joins colleagues on bill improving housing for grandparents raising grandkids

By: - May 4, 2023 1:59 pm
Grandson in grandfathers arms

(Getty Images)

A bipartisan trio of U.S. Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at smoothing the path for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, and Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would provide grants to housing providers to retrofit homes to help suit the needs of the increasing number of “grandfamilies” nationwide.

U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern and Ayanna Pressley, both Massachusetts Democrats, are sponsoring companion legislation in the U.S. House.

“Grandparents and caregivers who take up the mantle to raise children and provide them with safe and stable homes should be supported every step of the way. This legislation would ensure grandfamilies are able to live in homes that are safe and accessible and ensure both older adults and younger children alike can thrive in their communities,” Casey said in a statement.

In that same statement, Pressley said she was “proud to reintroduce the Grandfamily Housing Act alongside my colleagues to provide the necessary resources and support for grandparents raising their grandchildren. Housing is a human right and our grandfamilies deserve to thrive in community.”

In Pennsylvania, a bill currently before the state House’s Human Services Committee would authorize the creation of a legal services grant program for nonprofit organizations that provide civil legal services to kinship care families.

“Many kinship families are low-income households already facing complex issues and aren’t equipped to navigate the complicated legal process on their own. This assistance will help at-risk children to stay in stable family environments, relieving excessive pressure on the foster care system,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne said in a statement. 

In Pennsylvania,”there are an estimated 202,000 children who live in households that are headed by their grandparents or other relatives and they deserve access to support and resources just like other foster families,” Pashinski added.

Nationwide, more than 7.6 million children live in a home in which a relative other than their parent is the head of the household, according to a 2022 report by the advocacy group Generations United.

Of that number:

  • “Nearly 6 million of these children live with grandparent householders, and another 1.75 million live with other relative householders, such as aunts or uncles,
  • “Over 2.6 million children are being raised by a grandparent, other relative, or close family friend and do not have a parent living in the household,
  • “There are 137,356 children who are in the legal custody of the child welfare system with relatives providing the care. These children represent over one-third of all children in foster care,
  • “The percentage of children in foster care with relatives increased from 26% in 2010 to 34% in 2020,” and
  • “For every one child in the foster care system with a relative providing the care, there are 18 children being raised by relatives outside that system,” the report concluded.

Collins said the legislation, dubbed the “Grandfamily Housing Act,” is intended to address “the unique challenges faced by grandparents who have taken on the role of caregiver and aims to provide them with the necessary resources to succeed.

“By supporting grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, we can better ensure that every child has a safe and nurturing home to grow up in and a greater opportunity to reach their full potential,” Collins said.

Right now, one in five grandfamilies live at, or below, the federal poverty line. But the majority of subsidized and market-rate senior residences do not allow children, making “existing intergenerational housing units even more critical. However, few intergenerational housing programs have the support and resources to address the unique needs of grandfamilies.” the lawmakers said

If it’s eventually approved and signed into law, the bill would establish a pilot program that would provide grants to nonprofits, for-profits, public housing, Section 202, and Section 8 project-based rental assistance programs to improve intergenerational housing programs and communities, the lawmakers said.

In addition to addressing housing needs, the  grants also would underwrite on-site after-school programming, tutoring, and healthcare services for children who live with their grandparents.

“I’m proud to introduce this bill to support families where grandparents are the primary caregivers, helping them find housing, after-school activities, and other support services,” Brown said. “Investing in and caring for our children, and ensuring they have a safe and stable place to call home, will help keep families together.”

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.