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New Laws Help Parents of Opioid-Addicted Adults Care for Grandchildren

The opioid crisis has impacted countless families in Pennsylvania. Many adults seeking recovery from addiction have children in their care, and new legislation is lending a hand to grandparents who want to step in and help. Pennsylvania estimates that about 82,000 grandparents have taken on sole caregiver duties for 89,000 grandchildren, saving the state more than $1 billion in annual foster care costs. This can be a significant sacrifice for older adults who have had to delay or derail retirement plans or make other major life changes. In October 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law two bills providing grandparents with resources to help take care of their grandkids and also themselves.

The first bill, H.B. 1539, makes it easier for grandparents to assume temporary guardianship of grandchildren whose parents are battling substance abuse. When a crisis arises — such as when a parent is hospitalized, incarcerated or otherwise unable to care for their children — grandparents with temporary guardianship can make essential decisions about the children’s day to day life. For example, a guardian can enroll a child in a school closer to their new home and can make choices regarding medical care and religious activity. By taking guardianship quickly, grandparents can also prevent their grandchildren from having to enter the foster care system. During temporary guardianship, the parents’ rights remain protected.

The second bill, H.B. 2133, establishes the Kinship Care Navigator Program, which is intended to help grandparents with the challenges of parenting for a second time around. The program provides information and resources, including a toll-free hotline and website where users can communicate with a specially trained support professional to learn about the aid available to them at the federal, state and local levels.

There is also that possibility that other forms of support will be made available to grandparents. A bill that passed in April 2018 directs the Joint State Government Commission to make additional, evidence-based recommendations for how to address the challenges faced by Pennsylvania grandparents helping their families cope with the scourge of opioid addiction.

At The Law Offices of Jennifer Courtney & Associates, P.C., we are dedicated to helping grandparents understand and assert their legal rights to guardianship and government resources under Pennsylvania’s new laws. To discuss your case with an experienced family law attorney, call us at 215.493.3360 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. From our office in Yardley, Pennsylvania, we counsel clients throughout Bucks County and the surrounding areas.

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