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09/26/2018

Wolf Administration and Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance Introduce Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Listening Tour

Wilkes-Barre, PA – Department of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne, Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith, and Department of Health Executive Deputy Secretary Sarah Boateng joined the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) in Wilkes-Barre for the first stop in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Listening Tour.

Our goal is to listen and capture where issues or gaps exist in the spaces where grandparents are attempting to navigate the health, human services, education, and legal systems as they find themselves parenting for the second time around,” said Secretary Osborne. “In determining where the issues reside, we’ll ultimately be able to implement solutions that better serve, support, and protect Pennsylvania’s grandparents and the children they are raising.”

“With little notice, grandparents every day are thrust into the critical role of main caregiver for their grandchildren and they simply need more assistance,” said Angela M. Liddle, MPA, president and CEO of PFSA. “At a time when their own health could be comprised and their budgets stretched thinly, grandparents are asked to perform the most demanding and important job possible – parenting their grandchildren. We must provide more resources to help them ensure that these kids are well cared for and safe from abuse and neglect. This tour will amplify the voices of grandparents among key policymakers.”

PFSA and the Wolf Administration organized this three-stop listening tour to allow grandparents raising their grandchildren to discuss the need for improved services, supports, and resources, and to share their personal stories. Today’s listening session allowed Wolf Administration officials to hear the suggestions and concerns of local grandparents who’ve made extreme sacrifices to care for their grandchildren.

“Usually, we are focused on the individual battling addiction and not the impact addiction has on other family members,” said Secretary Smith. “In order to effectively combat the opioid crisis, individuals need strong support systems. Today’s participants, and families across the commonwealth, are stepping up in a critical time in their loved ones’ lives. It is our job to ensure the proper supports are not only in place for individuals seeking treatment, but their loved ones that are also affected by treating their addiction.”

An estimated 82,000 grandparents are the sole caregivers for nearly 89,000 grandchildren in Pennsylvania. That number is increasing due to the devastating opioid crisis. Pennsylvania’s House Children and Youth Committee held a hearing on the issue last summer, with estimates showing that Pennsylvania grandparents are saving the state at least an estimated $1 billion per year by keeping their grandchildren out of the foster care system.

“As we look for solutions to help those affected by the prescription opioid and heroin crisis, we must look at the effects on the entire family and make sure their needs are met,” said Secretary Miller. “Children affected by the crisis must have the services and supports necessary to continue to grow, excel, and cope with any life changes, and we must support grandparents who step in to ensure their grandchild has a safe and loving home. These sessions will give us first-hand knowledge of how we can better support all people affected by the crisis.”

There are currently several pieces of legislation to help "grandfamilies" and aid grandparents who have assumed sole care-giving responsibilities for their grandchildren, especially those affected by the opioid epidemic, by ensuring they have access to all services that can help them with their duties as caregivers and guardians.

“The opioid crisis does not discriminate in who it affects, regardless of age, location, and socioeconomic status,” said Exec. Deputy Secretary Boateng. “Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are in a situation they never expected to be in, and we have to make sure they have the resources to take care of not only the grandchildren, but also themselves. It is important that we are aware of the needs of this growing population, and work to assist them during these difficult circumstances.”

The Wolf Administration remains committed to helping Pennsylvanians dealing with the opioid crisis. For more information on the state’s efforts, visit www.pa.gov/opioids.

MEDIA CONTACT: Drew Wilburne, Aging, 717-705-3702
 

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