According to a recent story on 60 Minutes, more and more grandparents across the United States are now raising their grandchildren. These are heartbreaking stories of grandparents who have rescued their grandchildren from extremely difficult and urgent situations. Very often, the grandparents are exhausting their retirement savings and then struggle to provide for their grandchildren with little or no help from the state.
In many of these cases, grandparents have stepped in to take custody of these children because one or both parents have serious drug and/or alcohol addictions or unresolved mental health issues. Many substance abuse problems seen today are the result of the recent escalation of a nation-wide opioid/painkiller epidemic.
Nationally, a growing number of grandparents are raising their grandchildren, with the number of kids who have a grandparent as their primary caregiver reaching 2.9 million in 2015.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division for 2016, three percent of Colorado kids (38,000 children) lived in households where a grandparent served as their primary caregiver. Nationally, a growing number of grandparents are raising their grandchildren, with the number of kids who have a grandparent as their primary caregiver reaching 2.9 million in 2015. Some experts point to drug addiction, particularly the growing problem of opioid abuse, as the primary driver of this trend. Many of these children have been living without love and affection, some are homeless, left to fend for themselves, and others are exposed to the dangers of not being properly supervised and fall prey to unsavory predators.
“For every child in foster care who has been placed with a relative, another 20 children are being raised by relatives outside the system,” said Jaia Lent, Deputy Executive Director of Generations United, a Washington, D.C.-based family research and advocacy group.
In the last 20 to 30 years, the rise in grandparents who take on the responsibility and cost of raising their grandchildren has risen dramatically.
Federal law requires that states consider placing children with relatives in order to receive foster care and adoption assistance.
A case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Troxel vs Granville, said that parents have a fundamental liberty interest in the care and custody of their children, but there are exceptions. When children are not being properly supervised or cared for by parents, or a parent is incapacitated due to a substance abuse addiction, grandparents may be entitled to file a petition in the District Court and obtain full parental rights. In these kinds of cases, it is vital that grandparents obtain adequate legal representation to assist them with proving all of the facts that would lead to obtaining a court order. This will give grandparents custody rights. Oftentimes in these cases, parents do not agree that the grandparents should have custody rights and that sets up a disputed legal case between grandparents and natural parents over the best interest of the children. You can also have non-parents like an aunt, uncle, or family friend who has had custody of children file a parental responsibilities case because of the amount of time that they’ve provided care for a child when the biological parents have relinquished the care to a non-parent.
“Federal law requires that states consider placing children with relatives in order to receive foster care and adoption assistance. Grandmothers and grandfathers often are the first — and best — choice when state and local caseworkers have to take a child out of a home and find someone else to take custody,” said Angela Sausser, Executive Director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, a coalition of public child safety agencies in the state.
On February 9th, 2018, the Family First Prevention Services Act was passed and signed into law (FFSPA) (P.L. 115-123.) This is a landmark bill that focuses on the importance of children growing up in families. The legislation introduces historic reforms to help keep children safely with their families and avoid the traumatic experience of entering foster care. It also includes provisions to help ensure children are placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting appropriate to their special needs when foster care is needed. For more information and a summary of the Bill
go to fosteringchamps.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR GORDON N. SHAYNE
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