Wilkes-Barre, PA – Today, Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres spoke at the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Annual Conference to voice support for their work and share information about Department of Aging and other partnership programs that can help them.
Now in its 13th year, the conference, presented by the NEPA Intergenerational Coalition, brought grandparents, advocates and state and local leaders to the Woodlands Inn in Wilkes-Barre for a daylong discussion of the issues these grandparents face.
"All across Pennsylvania, grandparents are stepping up to provide care for their grandchildren as a result of the devastating opioid crisis or other difficult circumstances," said Secretary Torres. "These grandparents are doing heroic work to provide the stability that children need and deserve, and Pennsylvania's Department of Aging and its many partners are committed to supporting them."
Currently in Pennsylvania, there are almost 89,000 households where older adults are caring for approximately 100,000 grandchildren, and that number is expected to grow. Almost 60% of these grandparent heads of households are still in the workforce; 25% have a disability; and 20% are in poverty. Almost a third of these households do not have parents present.
Torres noted that Pennsylvania grandparents are currently saving the state an estimated $1 billion per year by keeping their grandchildren out of the foster care system. But many grandparents are making real sacrifices to help their families during difficult times, and they need all the help they can get – financial, legal and support services.
After conducting a statewide grandparents raising grandchildren listening tour last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging formed a Grandfamilies Workgroup to help raise awareness and make recommendations on issues facing grandfamilies in the areas of health and human services, legal matters like reunification and representation, education, and childcare.
The Department of Aging's Caregiver Support Program, administered through its local Area Agencies on Aging, provides eligible families with reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs, education, caregiver training, counseling, respite care and more to alleviate the stresses associated with caregiving. Each caregiver is assigned a care manager who will come to the care receivers' home, conduct a comprehensive assessment of the needs of the caregiver, provide support, and work with them to develop a person-centered plan of care.
Pennsylvania's departments of Aging and Human Services recently announced the launch of the KinConnector helpline, a resource for families in kinship care situations. This helpline can assist kinship care families in accessing local, state, and federal resources, as well as connect them with families facing similar circumstances, and is reachable at 1-866-546-2111.
Act 88 of 2018 allows temporary guardianship in 90-day increments for up to one year to grandparents or other family members when the child's parents are not able to care for them. Temporary guardianship gives grandparents the right to make basic decisions, such as the ability to take a child to the doctor or enroll them in school.
Grandparents can get free legal help navigating temporary custody issues. Pennsylvania's SeniorLAW Center works statewide and has helped many older adults resolve custody issues. You can reach the SeniorLAW HelpLine at 1-877-727-7529. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN) provides civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. The network consists of nine regional legal aid programs that provide assistance to eligible clients and six specialized legal aid programs that provide services in specialized areas of law, or to groups of eligible clients. Both forms of aid are available in all counties across the state.
To learn more about the Caregiver Support Program, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. These agencies can be located here.
To learn more about the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, visit www.aging.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Karen Gray, 717-705-3702 (office), 717-743-3414 (cell)
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