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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 14, 2018 11:15 AM
From: Representative Katharine M. Watson
To: All House members
Subject: Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program
Dear colleague,

I soon will introduce legislation to establish a Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program within the Department of Human Services as a resource for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, but who are not involved with the formal child welfare system.

Currently in Pennsylvania, approximately 82,000 grandparents are the sole caregivers for roughly 89,000 grandchildren. This is a growing family dynamic, significantly exacerbated by the opioid abuse epidemic that continues to plague Pennsylvania.

The challenge is that many of the grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are reluctant to enter the formal child welfare system and therefore cannot qualify for assistance that is available through the foster care, adoption, or kinship care systems in Pennsylvania. These grandparents are stepping up to do the right thing by their families, but often prefer to keep things “in the family” and not rely on state assistance. Or, many times, these grandparents are not aware of the assistance that may be available to them and their grandchildren even if they elect not to enter the formal child welfare system.

The legislation I’m proposing will establish a program to provide grandparents who are not being served by the child welfare system with guidance and information about services and support available to them. The Department of Human Services will contract with an entity that will administer this program.

Under the Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program, individuals will be hired and trained as Kinship Caregiver Navigators, who will become knowledgeable and can assist grandparents by providing information and support about federal and state programs, financial aid, legal aid, respite services for caregivers, and education and support services for children. These Navigators also will be able to facilitate contact between the caregivers and relevant state, federal, and local agencies.

Grandparents or other family members who may be raising children can speak with a Navigator by calling a toll-free telephone number. The program also will establish a web site that provides the same relevant information and resources for kinship caregivers.

Grandparents who find themselves in this situation face a range of emotional, financial, legal and daily living challenges as they deal with raising their grandchildren. Unexpectedly, they find themselves in a position of raising a second family. Often they are unsure of where to turn for assistance. Establishing the Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program would provide a valuable resource for those grandparents in need of information and support.

I hope you can join me in sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB2133