Sen. Casey Meets With Opioid Impacted Families

Casey introduced legislation to support grandparents taking care of their grandchildren

Shelby Cassesse
April 09, 2018 - 3:21 pm
Sen. Bob Casey met with opioid impacted families.

Photo By: Shelby Cassesse

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PITTSBURGH (News Radio 1020 KDKA) - Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) met with opioid impacted families in Pittsburgh Monday as part of his push for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act (S. 1091).

The legislation would create a task force which would implement a one-stop-shop of information and resources for these 'Grandfamilies.' The Senate already passed the legislation last month.

Experts believe more children are being raised by relatives other than their parents because of the continuing opioid crisis. 

Casey wants information to be as immediately accessible to these 'Grandfamilies' as possible. 

"They don't get a lead time of a couple of months or even a couple of weeks," he said. "Sometimes it happens in the middle of the night where they have to take over or in a shorter time frame. There's not a class they can take to prepare. Sometimes they have to make these decisions very quickly about mental health, about the school system, about the needs of the child." 

Participants in the round table included three grandparents taking care of grandchildren. Marvin Sirbu's daughter has battled addiction for several years, so he and his wife, Ann Sinheimer, have custody of his granddaughters. They brought up issues such as finding housing for 'Grandfamilies' if the grandparents have already downsized to a home that is insufficient to raise a young family. 

Elaine Jenkins is a grandmother who began taking care of her grandchild after her own son died. She added that the wellbeing of the caretakers is rarely thought of when considering 'Grandfamilies.'

Casey said the roundtable showed the importance of the legislation.

"I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to be a grandparent having to take over the responsibility," he said.  "I also can't imagine what it's like for that child to live through the trauma of an addiction in their own family or to have other circumstances that make it particularly difficult. So, we have to try to meet these needs right now." 

About 100,000 Pennsylvania children are being raised by a grandparent or other relatives.