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Grandparents raising grandkids to get new help

The opioid epidemic that's affected much of the nation is putting a big strain on one unexpected group of people: grandparents.

According to government research, in the state of Pennsylvania alone, there are 82,000 grandparents raising their grandchildren right now. Many of them stepped into the role of substitute parent for their grandchildren because the children's biological parents are victims of the opioid crisis. In many cases, the responsibility for the children involved was pushed on the grandparents virtually without warning. Even worse, many of the grandparents say there are few resources available to help them.

That could soon be changing if some state and national legislators have their way. Governor Tom Wolfe met with a group of grandparents who have stepped in to parent their grandchildren because the children's actual parents are absent, dead, addicted, in jail or in rehab due to drug addiction and other problems to discuss their burdens.

It's clear that the issues affecting these grandparents cuts across all socioeconomic lines, affecting rich and poor alike. Custody issues -- along with rules designed to reunite the children with their parents even though the obstacles involved make the situation less-than-optimum -- interfere with everything the grandparents need to do, from enrolling their grandchildren in school to obtaining medical care.

A grandparent's rights to custody of their grandchildren are also tenuous without legal guardianship or adoption papers and can be disrupted by the court or children's services agencies at will. Those kinds of difficulties cause unnecessary stress in a situation that's already stressful for both the grandparents and the children involved.

Hopefully, grandparents will soon gain some relief, thanks to two bills that have recently passed the House of Representatives. One aims to expedite the guardianship process for grandparents, which will give them legal authority over their grandchildren. Another will create a central resource that grandparents can use to find available services and assistance.

Grandparents everywhere are being urged to reach out to their senators to express support for these bills so that they move quickly through the Senate.

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