Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Last Sunday, CBS' 60 Minutes ran an extended feature story on the role of grandparents as primary caregivers for grandchildren, often because of untrustworthy parents with opioid or other addiction problems. The story reported that "stoked by the opioid crisis, 21,000 children -- just in Utah -- live with their grandparents."
The feature also suggested some of the financial consequences for the extended family, as grandparents were exhausting their own retirement savings in order to provide for the younger children. Nonprofit programs, such as Grandfamilies, sometimes are able to provide informal support for the grandparents.
Along the same lines, Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf signed new laws, Senate Bill 844 (Printer's No. 1531), which became Act No. 21, on May 4, 2018. The law recognizes expanded standing for grandparents to seek physical or legal custody for grandchildren, if they can show "clear and convincing evidence" of all of the following:
(I) The individual has assumed or is willing to assume responsibility for the child.
(II) The individual has a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child.
In determining whether the individual meets the requirements of this subparagh, the court may consider, among other factors, the nature, quality, extent and length of the involvement by the individual in the child's life.
(III) Neither parent has any form of care or control of the child.
Pennsylvania estimates that there are 82,000 grandparents acting as sole caregivers for roughly 89,000 grandchildren. Other related bills still pending in Pennsylvania include support for creation of a "Kinship Caregiver Navigation Program," and a means to appoint a temporary guardian when a parent enters drug or alcohol treatment.
Additional history on the shifts in thinking on grandparent rights can be important. For example see this Pennsylvania law firm's blog post from 2013 on amendments that removed "automatic" standing for grandparents to seek custody.
The Pennsylvania Bar Institute, responding swiftly to the latest changes, is offering a Webinar tomorrow (May 17, 2018) on the new laws.