Experts, advocates discuss challenges facing ‘grandfamilies’ in Pa.
‘Grandparents raising their grandchildren deserve and need the same amount of advocacy and support they are providing to those for whom they care,’ one advocate said
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State lawmakers heard from experts and advocates about the challenges facing grandparents who, for various reasons, are raising their grandchildren.
Natalie Hoprich, a grandmother raising two of her six grandchildren due to their parents’ struggle with substance use disorder, told lawmakers during a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing about her difficulty finding support and financial resources to help offset the cost of caring for her grandchildren.
“It was a huge responsibility dropped in our lap with no instructions,” Hoprich said. “Because my husband and I work in jobs that use computers, we are computer savvy but could not find help for people in our situation.”
Hoprich said that she and her husband “made too much” to receive financial support through the Department of Aging’s Caregiver Support Program, a statewide program administered through Pennsylvania’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging that provides resources and assistance to caregivers.
“The little savings we had was gone,” Hoprich said. “I looked for help paying for daycare, we made too much money. I called the Bureau [Department] of Aging but we made too much. Even though that money was already tied up in bills to prepare us for retirement.”
Grandparents must be 55 years of age to qualify for support through the program.
“The ages of grandparents and the role of grandparents have changed, and I wanted to know how you get older adults to come forward to say they are raising their grandchildren and they need help,” state Rep. Darisha Parker, D-Philadelphia, said.
Joan Gower, a former social worker who facilitates a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren, said grandparents need more support and that the Caregiver Support Program needs to be more expansive.
“I strongly believe that the Caregiver Support Program through the Office of Aging, should be made available to any grandparent raising a grandchild,” Gower testified.
On Tuesday, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, introduced a bill to help grandparents raising their grandchildren access legal help with the guardianship process.
“In Pennsylvania alone, there are an estimated 202,000 children who live in households that are headed by their grandparents or other relatives and they deserve to [sic] access to support and resources just like other foster families,” Pashinski said in a statement.
Angela Liddle, the president, and CEO of Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance called Pashinski’s bill “a good start” to addressing the hurdles grandparents raising their grandchildren face.
“Grandparents raising their grandchildren deserve and need the same amount of advocacy and support they are providing to those for whom they care,” Liddle said.
Other lawmakers expressed concern about what they said was the isolation and stigma grandfamilies in Pennsylvania experience.
“The stark reality is – and it happens for many reasons – grandparents raising grandchildren is a very real thing, and I know this has been going on for a very long time,” state Rep. Gina Curry, D-Delaware, said. “I’m thinking about the stigma in talking about the need to take care of family and grandchildren, and I’m concerned about people in my district who are in an isolated place because they may encounter language or cultural obstacles.”
State Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, said it was time to recognize grandparents for their efforts to care for their grandchildren.
“We have to start treating these heroic people not as grandparents but as the parents and caregivers they really are,” Madden said.
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