Pashinski introduces legislation aimed at helping grandfamilies

HARRISBURG, June 12 – Citing a growing need due to Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at helping grandfamilies who take temporary custody of young relatives.

“I’ve been working on this legislation for several years, but with families being broken apart by the opioid epidemic, it’s necessary now more than ever to help grandparents and other family members who are caring for grandchildren or nieces and nephews,” Pashinski said. “It’s easy to overlook, but grandfamilies often encounter unique legal problems where the law is unclear, such as making medical decisions or enrolling a child in school.”

Grandfamilies, also known as kinship families, are families in which children reside with and are raised by grandparents, other extended family members and adults with whom they have a close family-like relationship.

The first piece of legislation, H.B. 1539, would create a guardianship program for grandparents. House Bill 1539 would provide a way for grandparents to obtain temporary guardianship and allow them to make basic legal decisions for the children under their care. It would do so while protecting both the rights of the parents and the needs of the child to be with loving family members.

The second piece of legislation, H.R. 390, would instruct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study on grandfamilies. The study would look at what grandfamilies need to successfully raise the children in their care and make recommendations to the General Assembly as to what more can be done to help keep these families together.

“Currently 238,598 Pennsylvanian children are living with grandparents or other close relatives,” Pashinski said. “Many times the grandparents or other relatives that take in these children aren’t financially prepared and struggle with the sudden responsibility of caring for children. 

“After speaking with many families in Northeastern Pennsylvania and around the state about the issues they face raising grandchildren, it’s important to note that they don’t want a handout, just a helping hand to do the best they can for the children in their care,” Pashinski continued. “As we grapple with the opioid epidemic that is sadly tearing apart families, we must ensure we’re doing everything possible to help the children and those who take custody of them while their parents hopefully get the help they need.”

House Bill 1539 and H.R. 390 have received bipartisan support and are awaiting referral to a committee.