Adopting a child is a joyous occasion for the adoptive parents and the adopted child. Often, the child is becoming part of a family unit after growing up without appropriate parental care. In other instances, a child’s previously stable home may have been abruptly disrupted by a parent’s criminal charges or substance abuse issues.
In Pennsylvania, the opiod epidemic has thrust grandparents into the role of parents and caretakers. As a result, grandparents are increasingly adopting or securing custody of their grandchildren. Recognizing the challenges grandparents in this situation face, Gov. Tom Wolf recently signed into law two bills that should help grandparents caring for their grandchildren.
One bill establishes a toll-free hotline and website specifically aimed at helping grandparents identify resources. Often, grandparents need legal, financial and emotional support as they step back into a parenting role. This is especially true when their grandchild has been mistreated, neglected or abandoned by a parent addicted to opioids.
A second bill makes it easier for grandparents to secure the authority to make decisions for a grandchild when a parent is unfit to because of substance abuse issues. The bill allows grandparents to get temporary guardianship more easily. This is not the same as custody or adoption, but it will allow grandparents to make decisions for a grandchild when a parent is unfit to do so.
Helping grandparents help grandchildren
Approximately 82,000 Pennsylvania grandparents are raising their grandchild, and the bills signed are an important step in removing unnecessary legal, logistical and financial obstacles that can make this task harder. If you have questions about grandparent rights, contact a Pennsylvania family lawyer.