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New PA Laws Support Kinship Caregivers

In Pennsylvania, there are now 76,000 grandparents caring for 84,000 grandchildren. (Pixabay)
In Pennsylvania, there are now 76,000 grandparents caring for 84,000 grandchildren. (Pixabay)
October 30, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania has two new laws that will help keep children in kinship care and out of the foster care system.

Due primarily to parental substance abuse, there are now 76,000 grandparents caring for some 84,000 children in the Keystone State. HB 1539, establishing temporary guardianship for kinship caregivers, and HB 2133, establishing a kinship Caregiver Navigator Program, were signed into law late last week.

According to Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, research shows kids do best when they live with someone they know.

"So we've decided to create a system of supports for kinship caregivers who are informally stepping up and caring for kids who are in their lives whose parents are unable to care for them for any of a variety of reasons,” Benso said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has announced that more the $475,000 of federal funds are available to jump-start the kinship care navigator program.

Benso said the navigator program will set up a website and toll-free hotline to give grandparents and other kinship caregivers guidance and information that will help them raise the children in their care.

"This will help the family member who's stepped up to care for the child understand what their rights are to make legal decisions for children,” she said. “And it will direct them to other services they might be eligible for so they can best meet these children's needs."

The program will also save money. Each placement in foster care costs the state almost $25,000 a year.

Benso added that giving kinship caregivers temporary guardianship ensures they can respond quickly and legally to health care and educational needs of the child while preserving parents' custodial rights.

"Our goal here, and these caregivers' goals, is that parents will recover from the challenges that they're experiencing and children will be able to successfully reunite with their birth parents and never be placed in the foster care system,” Benso said.

DHS has already put out a Request for Applications for an agency to begin the navigator program.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA