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Official addresses issues for grandparents raising grandchildren

State Rep. Jack Rader hosted an informational event for grandparents raising grandchildren within Monroe County on Tuesday.

Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres and Monroe County Area Agency on Aging Director Brian LaVacca spoke to the group. Local agencies that provide support for relative topics were also present.

The event took place Tuesday morning at the Eldred Community Center and focused on discussions of resources for grandparents raising their grandchildren when the biological parents are out of the picture. Torres spoke about recently enacted legislation that provides support, and also spoke about the pitfalls facing grand-families.

The opioid epidemic taking place throughout Pennsylvania was cited as being a leading contributor to parents no longer being able to raise their children, creating the need for grandparents to step in.

“Funding has always been a concern, and the opioid crisis has now made these services much more needed for so many families,” Torres said.

“At the department of aging, we are committed to serving the needs of all older adults, and grand-families continue to be an emerging demographic. The department of aging has been raising the awareness of the needs of grand-families across the state by gathering information on legislation, best practices, learning opportunities, and sharing those resources locally.”

The event included a question-and-answer session for the audience, who were mostly grandparents affected by these issues. They shared concerns that touched upon the financial aid needed and the stipulations involved.

In response to the concerns voiced, Torres assured the audience the Department of Aging is actively seeking out the best course of action to develop support.

“We are still gathering information and developing ideas, but I’m optimistic that we have raised awareness in the legal community and this awareness will result in more attention into issues that impact grand-families.”

The rising statistics of grandparents raising their grandchildren sheds light on the need for government aid and the correlation of the opioid epidemic impacting these increased instances.

“According to the American Community Survey, 5,037 grandparents in Monroe County live with their grandchildren under the age of 18 between 2014 and 2018. In all of Pennsylvania, 37,593 grandparents lived with their grandchildren — of those, 36 percent were responsible for the basic needs of their grandchildren.

Generations United estimated that for every one child in foster care, there are 20 more being raised informally outside of the foster care system,” Torres said.