By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Because of legislation I cosponsored, there is now a KinConnector helpline for families in kinship care situations, including grandparents raising their grandchildren because of the opioid crisis.
House Bill 2133 (Now Act 89 of 2018), established this program that assists individuals to locate resources that can ease this process for the entire family. I strongly supported this legislation because I recognized that grandparents who are raising their grandchildren may need some extra help. The sad fact is that due to the destructive opioid epidemic, thousands of grandparents are now trying to raise the children left behind.
An estimated 82,000 grandparents are the sole caregivers for their grandchildren in Pennsylvania. The majority are not interested in any type of handout, but they do want some guidance on where to go for help in raising their grandchildren.
The benefit of this program is that it will actually save taxpayers money. Not only do grandparents raising grandchildren keep these youth out of foster care, but research shows that keeping children with family when they are unable to remain with a parent is best for their physical, emotional and mental well-being. Children thrive in these families because they provide stability and permanence.
The KinConnector helpline is staffed by social service professionals who can help families locate, understand, and access resources that may be able to help them. These “navigators” will connect grandparents and other relatives who are raising children with resources such as health, financial and legal services, support groups, training, and parenting advice. They can also help families locate physical or behavioral health services, enroll the child in school, and other services designed to help caregivers. The new law also created a website of resources that is set to launch later this year.
Kinship care is becoming more common in Pennsylvania, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings often stepping in to fill the role of parents who are seeking treatment or, in the most tragic cases, have died from the disease of addiction.
The fact is that children who are cared for and raised by relatives are less likely to end up in foster care and will experience better outcomes when they are living with a relative or someone they know. This new program eases the burden on families by providing them with a single site resource to give them all the tools and resources they need to be successful.
KinConnector can be reached by calling 1-866-KIN-2111 (1-866-546-2111.) Help is available Monday - Thursday 9 a.m.- 10 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
For more information on resources available for kinship families and grandparents raising grandchildren, visit dhs.pa.gov