WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is applauding news that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL), held the first Grandparents Advisory Council meeting last week. Brown’s Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act was signed into law last year and created the council in light of the addiction crises, which has forced many grandparents and other family members to step in and raise children whose parents are unable to care for them. The council met last week to discuss the needs of grandparents raising children and develop strategies on how federal agencies can best serve them.
“We have a long way to go to support these families, but creating this task force is one step in the right direction,” said Brown. “We need to learn more about the challenges facing grandparents and other relatives in Ohio who have stepped up as caregivers, so we can support them as they raise these children.”
The council is working to identify, coordinate, and share information and resources to support grandparents and other caretakers. In addition to compiling tools and resources, the Advisory Council will develop a report that includes best practices, resources, and other useful information for grandparents and other older relatives raising children. The report will then be delivered to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and state agencies responsible for carrying out family caregiver programs.
Two Ohioans were selected to serve on the advisory council, including Dr. Toni Kleckley, an Ohio grandparent, board member of the Ohio Grandparents Kinship Coalition (OGKC) and Founder of the Grandparents Educating Minds (G.E.MS.) program. Patrick Donovan, who supervises both the kinship and Adult Protective Services units at Muskingum County Adult and Child Protective Services was also selected. Advisory council members were appointed based on their demonstrated knowledge, qualifications, and professional or personal experience related to the purpose and scope of the council. Brown urged Ohioans to apply during the application process in October.
Brown has long been fighting to help grandparents and relatives raising children get the support they need. In May, Brown introduced his Family First Transition and Support Act, which would create a new kinship placement program fund to expand funding for kinship support services that help family members raising children pay for essential needs and services, such as childcare, and transportation. Brown’s legislation removes a federal income requirement, which limits monthly foster care maintenance payments to extremely low-income families, to ensure kinship care givers have the support they need, regardless of their income. This is especially important with the rise of family members raising children due to the addiction crisis.
Brown’s Family First Transition and Support Act builds on the bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act, legislation signed into law last year, which expanded federal funding to provide in-home services to caregivers and vulnerable children and created permanent federal funding for kinship navigator programs that help connect relative caregivers to local, state, federal, and private resources. The Family First Prevention and Services Act allows states to receive 50% reimbursement for the costs of their kinship navigator program.
Brown also helped secure a combined $40 million for these kinship navigator programs in both FY19 and FY20 spending bills, and cosponsored the Supporting Kinship Connections Act, which would provide kinship navigator grants in FY20. These funds ensure states have the resources to create, develop, or expand their kinship navigator programs.